Things may finally be getting better for public college students.
For the first time in 20 years, there will be no tuition hike at the University of Arizona, Arizona State University or the University of Northern Arizona. And in a deal reached by Gov. Jan Brewer (R) and legislators, they are actually increasing higher education spending.
Elsewhere, the University of Virginia announced its lowest tuition increase in a decade, and the University of Colorado is implementing its smallest increase in five years. The highest increase in the Midwest was actually in South Dakota with a 5.8 percent increase.
Check out our survey of who's increasing tuition around the country:
States may have finally begun to turn the corner in Great Recession budget woes. However, public colleges shouldn't expect a flood of cash to poor in; the National Conference of State Legislatures a large majority of the 29 states projecting surpluses will be putting them into reserves. Still, states are beginning to approach a pre-recession level for their revenues, which means less need to cuts to education. There are still significant increases, to be sure, but it's a far cry away from last year, when some students saw tuition increases as high as 40 percent.
"Lagging state funding for higher education" helped drive up college costs in recent years, notes Phil Oliff, a Policy Analyst for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Average annual tuition at public, four-year institutions grew by 28 percent -- or $1,800 -- over the last five years, after adjusting for inflation, according to the College Board. Even after taking financial aid and education tax credits into account, price increases at these institutions have still outpaced inflation.
Although states' rebounding from the recession will mean students in most states will get smaller tuition increases this year, things aren't going so well in Pennsylvania and Florida.
Florida has already cut 60 percent from their higher education budget over the last four years, and decided to chip away more this year. But Florida's public colleges limited by state law on much they can raise tuition. Pennsylvania has been cutting spending on higher education since 2007, under former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell. In the first term for Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, he set out to whack 20 percent from public college appropriations. Pennsylvania now spends twice as much on corrections as it does on higher education, while the U.S. Department of Education recently revealed the Pennsylvania State University system has the highest tuition of any four-year public college in the country.
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