Tuition costs still challenging

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A recent study by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education has revealed what should not come as a surprise.

The independent report gives failing grades to 49 of the 50 states when it comes to affordability in higher education.

Tuition costs have risen dramatically as state budgets have gotten tighter. The cuts to higher education have resulted in those costs being passed on to students and their families.

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Now, as states face the realities of the economic downturn, more of that is expected to come.

“States make disproportionate cuts in higher education and, in return for the colleges taking them gracefully, allow them to raise tuition,” Patrick Callan, the center’s president, told the Associated Press. “If we handle this recession like we’ve handled others, we will see that this gets worse.”

That’s troubling news for the family of any potential student, but particularly troubling for low-income families.

The report concludes that enrollment at a local public college costs families in the top fifth of income just 9 percent of their earnings, while families from the bottom fifth pay 55 percent — up from 39 percent in 1999-2000.

In the big picture, because of the high cost of attending colleges and universities, other countries are passing the United States in college enrollment and completion. The study further contends that as the population increases, the difficult accessibility to higher education will result in a country less educated than in previous generations.

In Ohio, Gov. Strickland and the legislature included a tuition freeze during the 2007 biennial budget. But efforts by Ohio lawmakers and the state’s institutions of higher learning to make college financially attainable will be an even bigger challenge in 2009.