Why Are Tuition Costs Exploding?
As a senior in high school, I was president of the honor society, but I didn't know what I wanted to "do with my life." I did know I wanted to go to college -- everyone did -- and I figured I could figure it all out when I got to the University of Florida campus. This was in 1980.
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After I arrived in Gainesville, I tried a little of this and a little of that -- first computer science, then business, and, finally, when I went with my gifts, journalism. Somehow I managed to cram four years of study into five.
While my generous parents were probably wondering about me, it all worked out without too much financial damage. I had a scholarship that covered much of my costs, Mom and Dad provided a lot, and tuition was somewhere around $32 a credit hour, perhaps less. Even with the extra year, I managed to leave with a debt of only $5,000. Once married and in the workforce, we paid it off in a few short years. My wife's college debt: $3,000.
Try pulling that off today. The average college student in 2011 graduated with a debt of $25,250, with 10 percent of borrowers owing more than $54,000. The burden has increased substantially in recent years. Responding to seemingly endless federal subsidies, according to the College Board, tuition and fees at public four-year schools have jumped by 25 percent in just the last three years.
This tuition hike is part of a longer trend at most schools. At UF, undergrad tuition was $38.08 a credit hour for in-state students in 1995-96. In 2006-07, it was $73.71, or nearly double. Such rates look positively benign now. Today tuition and fees at the university are about $190 per credit hour. Yet according to U.S.News & World Report, of more than 400 public four-year institutions surveyed for the 2011-12 school year, "the average cost of out-of-state tuition and fees was $17,785 -- almost $10,000 less than the average cost among private schools."
Stan Guthrie, Author
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