If another recession hits, many public colleges and universities are likely to increase tuition to raise revenue as they are squeezed by drops in state and local funding, according to a new report from New America.
The think tank released a paper Wednesday predicting how a theoretical future recession would affect higher education finances. It examined historical data on state appropriations, local appropriations, tuition revenue and enrollment levels from the past 15 years. New America then modeled each state’s likely outcomes in the event of recessions of differing severity.
Only a few states were projected to hold per-student tuition below the current national average of $6,006 in the event of a recession before 2022: California, Florida, Nevada and Wyoming. Meanwhile, Nevada, New York and Texas were among those found to be most likely to maintain tuition levels, lower tuition or receive increased state appropriations, even in the event of a future recession. Colorado, Delaware, Michigan and Minnesota were found to be likely to increase tuition significantly and receive state funding cuts.
The report’s authors noted that using past outcomes to predict the future is imprecise.
“States with high disinvestment and large tuition increases in previous recessions could easily reverse course should their priorities change,” they wrote.
The paper also calls for avoiding scenarios that negatively impact students by changing the way state higher education is financed. It suggests a requirement that state and local governments maintain per-student funding levels in order to receive federal aid and that a new state-federal partnership could be developed that would provide new federal funding for states agreeing to meet conditions like holding down tuition and raising state appropriations.
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