For the first time in U.S. history, student tuition accounts for the greater portion of public post-secondary school financing than funding received from states. This finding comes from a recent report issued by the U.S. Government Accounting Office titled “Higher Education: State Funding Trends and Policies on Affordability,” which notes that in 2003 state funding accounted for the greatest portion of a public college’s revenue (32 percent) while tuition comprised 17 percent. But by 2012, tuition made up 25 percent of revenue, while money from state governments made up 23 percent.
The recession, which decimated many state budgets, gets some of the blame for the flip, but the GAO lays much of it at the feet of colleges themselves, citing the ballooning of tuition rates in the nine years covered by the report. It notes that state funding decreased by 12 percent overall from 2003 to 2012, while median tuition rose 55 percent across all public colleges.
“Correspondingly, average net tuition, which is the estimated tuition after grant aid is deducted, also increased by 19 percent during this period,” the report states. “These increases have contributed to the decline in college affordability as students and their families are bearing the cost of college as a larger portion of their total family budgets.”