Report: States must rein in rising community college tuition

June 30, 2011

A new report from a higher education think tank calls on state policymakers to rein in the rising cost of community colleges by limiting tuition increases and finding ways to streamline the process of transferring to four-year universities.
The report, from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, focuses on community colleges because the think tank believes they are a crucial part of the plans to increase the number of college graduates nationwide in the next decade.
“The way we’re going to increase completion of baccalaureate degrees, in the biggest and fastest-growing states, is by (increasing) the number of students who start in community colleges and transfer,” said Pat Callan, director of NCPPHE.
That’s unlikely, says Callan, since tuition at public two-year institutions has skyrocketed since 1999, far outpacing the median family income in every state, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Education Statistics cited in the report.
Callan says states need to re-think their approach to funding and tuition at public two-year institutions. Turning it around would mean adopting policies that tie tuition increases to median family income, rewarding colleges that cut costs without increasing cost of attendance, and allowing steady tuition growth during good economic years, he says.
“No state has an effective tuition policy,” he said. “Most of them are doing it exactly the wrong way.”
The report also praises efforts in some states to make the transition from two- to four-year institutions easier, including adopting common course numbers and an agreed-upon core curriculum. These measures could save students money by saving them from having to re-take courses after they’ve transferred.
But Callan says rising cost of attendance is the most important issue moving forward.
“Most of these aren’t going to be very effective unless we deal with this affordability issue,” he said.

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