Letters to the Editor
February 7, 2014 12:08PM
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Updated: March 10, 2014 6:35AM
College costs go up as state support is cut
The Jan. 30 column by Kathleen Parker, “The cost of graduating just keeps escalating” omits the most salient factor about the increases in tuition costs at public colleges and universities since 1985.
She said the price of higher education has increased 538 percent since 1985, while tuition for medicine has increased a mere 286 percent, and the consumer price index has increased only 121 percent. She does not say why public college and university tuition increased that much, even though she has the pertinent cost data at her disposal.
Many readers may assume that it is simply greed. The truth is that the cost of public higher education in America has been shifted from state funding to student tuition. When I became president of Buffalo State College in 1989 the annual tuition for undergraduate students in the State University of New York system was $1,300. When I left office in January 1996, the annual tuition was $3,900. The dramatic increase was due to reductions in state funding to higher education by the state legislature, and a shift in the cost to students. The legislature would not permit institutions to pass on all their reductions in state funding to students so I had to eliminate programs, lay off faculty and staff, reduce enrollments, streamline administrative organization, and accommodate needs for investment in innovation and technology. If we had passed along all the reductions in state support to students tuition would have increased to more than $5,000 in that time frame.
All states have severely reduced their support to higher education over the past 25 years and passed the costs on to students. In 1985 state support for higher education in NY was 70 percent of the cost. Today state support is between 25 and 30 percent of cost. If state support had remained close to 50 percent, the tuition increases would have been between 121 and 286 percent.
F. C. Richardson