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Institutional costs per degree at California’s two public four-year higher education systems dropped by almost one-fifth from 1987 to 2013, according to a new report from the Public Policy Institute of California.

Costs per degree fell 17 percent over that 26-year period across the University of California and California State University systems. Costs per degree dropped by 6 percent at the UC system, dipping from $116,000 to $109,000. The marker declined more sharply at the Cal State system, falling 33 percent from $67,000 to $45,000.

Recent costs per degree at UC came in below that of a comparison group of public and private institutions across the country. But they were higher than a national comparison group made up of only public institutions. Cal State’s costs per degree were lower than both comparison groups.

The report says the UC system’s costs are higher than other public institutions in the country in part because leaders have tried to keep salaries high in light of the high cost of living in California. It says the Cal State system’s reduction in costs is tied to improved graduation rates.

Authors recommend leaders use the costs per degree measurement in finance discussions as a reliable and objective way to gauge institutional costs.