Monday, November 2, 2009

Higher higher ed

Posted by Jorden Meltz

CONSUMER PRICES fell 2.1 percent between July 2008 and July 2009, but college tuition kept going up. Students entering public four-year institutions this fall confront published tuition rates more than 6 percent higher than they were a year ago. Private colleges and universities ticked up 4.4 percent. To be sure, these figures apply to the "sticker price" of college only: grants and loans (many of them subsidized) cover much of the tab. But the contrast between the country's belt-tightening and higher ed's price hikes is striking nonetheless.

The recession itself is a major cause. The downturn forced state governments to slash support for the public systems that more than 70 percent of undergraduates attend; it also shrank the endowments of private institutions. Congress and the Obama administration supplied aid to the states in the stimulus bill, plus $30.8 billion in extra tax credits and Pell grants for students. But this only partially mitigated the impact.

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