Higher Costs of Higher Education

New report diagnoses skyrocketing PA college tuition, prescribes remedy for lower costs

HARRISBURG, PA — The Commonwealth Foundation today released Higher Costs of Higher Education: Reforming how Pennsylvania Taxpayers Finance Colleges and Universities, a policy brief that details why the price of higher education in PA continues to soar, and the solutions for affordability.

The brief exposes the real reasons why the costs of higher education in Pennsylvania have exploded over the last 15 years: a lack of accountability to taxpayers in how money is spent by colleges and universities; and the absence of incentives to contain costs. The brief contains a five-part solution to making higher education in PA affordable again.

Pennsylvania ranks as the fourth most expensive state in the country to attend a four-year public institution, trailing only Vermont ($10,428), New Jersey ($9,984), and New Hampshire ($9,673), all states with a higher cost of living, according to the latest report from theCollege Board.

Published tuition at a four-year public school in Pennsylvania in 2007-08 was, on average, $9,672, an increase of 7% from the prior year and a 56% inflation-adjusted increase from 1993-94. The numbers are staggering for private schools as well. The average tuition was $27,272, a 6% increase from the prior year and a 49% inflation-adjusted increase from 1993-94.

Pennsylvania’s tuition is also significantly higher than many of its peer states. Pennsylvania tuition is more than twice that of West Virginia, and 90% more than the state of New York, which has a higher cost of living.

College and university administrators maintain that the reason for higher costs is insufficient appropriations from state government. But, as the Commonwealth Foundation brief reveals, institutions of higher learning in PA have received significant increases in stateappropriations and financial aid programs, and yet higher education is less affordable today than ever before.

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Editor’s Note: The policy brief, Higher Costs of Higher Education: Reforming how Pennsylvania Taxpayers Finance Colleges and Universities, is available here in PDF.

The Commonwealth Foundation
(www.CommonwealthFoundation.org) is an independent, non-profit public policy research and educational institute based in Harrisburg, PA.