Tuition at public four-year colleges increased more in the 2002-2003 academic year than they have in each of the previous 10 years, The College Board’s annual Trends in College Pricing report found.
Nationally, the study found that tuition jumped 9.6 percent this year, though the rate of inflation is just 1.5 percent. The average increase from the year before was only 7.7 percent. Private four-year institutions saw an increase of 5.8 percent, up from 5.5 percent. The last time tuition rose that much was in 1991, when schools nationwide saw an average increase of 10.8 percent.
Economic recessions are the main reason for the increases, said The College Board consultant Kathy Payea, agreeing with University administrators who have stated that a lack of government support led to the tuition hike.
“The trends would show that in good years, we saw lower increases from year to year,” Payea said. “It’s not just that a poor economy drives tuition and fees. It’s that when the economy is poor, there is less support from the government, therefore shifting the expense to tuition and fees. … The amount of support for education will drive tuition.”
Several colleges and institutions had increases of 50 percent or more, including Governors State University in University Park, Ill. and Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts. Tuition at Allen University, a private college in South Carolina, rose 57.2 percent, to $7,468 a year.
In comparison, the University of Michigan’s tuition increased only 7.9 percent for the 2002-2003 academic year.
University Provost Paul Courant said one of the main reasons that tuition did not increase more than it did here is because of the state government’s decision not to lower higher education funding. But he added that the state’s budget isn’t going to immediately recover, meaning that the University could suffer more cutbacks in the future.
“(Tuition) will really depend very much on our ability to garner support from other sources,” he said. “This recession is almost over. It is over. But the state budget is not looking good for the next year or so.”
But not everything is bad news for students who will have to suffer the consequences of the recession. Another study released by College Board showed that while tuition has increased, the amount of available financial aid rose 11.5 percent.
Courant said previous recessions have had negative affects on University tuition that lasted for years after the economy improved.
“Typically in Michigan, the big increases associated with recessions happen after the recession is over. There is just a lag between when the economy goes bad and when the revenue slows down,” Courant said. “We will do everything we can to minimize the consequences of that, while still being the University of Michigan.”
During the recessions that occurred in the early 1980s and the early 1990s, tuition hikes at the University grew for years after the economy improved.
Tuition rose 10 percent before the 1991-1992 school year, 14 percent in 1992-1993 and 12 percent in 1993-1994. During the 1980s, tuition more than doubled itself, increasing 10.5 percent in 1979, 13.7 percent in 1980, 19.2 percent in 1981, 15.2 percent in 1982 and 9.5 percent in 1983.
It then leveled off in 1984, when the cost of tuition almost came to a standstill, Courant said.