Does State Support Have ‘Weak’ Connection to Tuition? Association Begs to Differ

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities is arguing against the implications of a new report from the American Enterprise Institute about the relationship between state funding for higher education and rising tuition at public colleges and universities.

The report, “Pennies on the Dollar: The Surprisingly Weak Relationship Between State Subsidies and College Tuition,” says state disinvestment in higher education has played a small role in the increasing cost of tuition. And the report says that public colleges mostly absorb state-budget cuts by reducing their spending in noninstructional areas, not by raising their tuition rates.

The report concludes that it may be more efficient to end state subsidies to public institutions, and instead use the money for direct grants to students.

In a written statement, the association took issue with the report’s implications. “This approach has proven to be a disaster for students and families,” the statement says, “because it establishes a formidable upfront price barrier to college access, coupled with unreliable promises of financial aid.”

Still, the association did not question the research or methodology of the institute’s report.

Preston Cooper, author of the report, said he hoped that if people disagreed with his recommendations, they would propose a better solution.

Mr. Cooper said he had begun studying the relationship between state support and tuition costs when he realized there wasn’t a lot of research on the topic. He said he hoped that his report and others would prompt further study.

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