LARGEST IN-STATE TUITION & FEES INCREASES
2005-06 to 2006-07
School % chg.
Hawaii, Manoa 19.9
Illinois, Urbana-Champaign 14.5
Oklahoma, Norman 14.0
Kansas, Lawrence 13.7
Illinois State, Normal 13.6
Kansas State, Manhattan 12.8
Kentucky, Lexington 12.0
North Carolina State, Raleigh 10.1
Purdue, West Lafayette, Ind. 9.9
Texas, Austin 9.6
Tuition increases moderate
by Mary Specht, USA TODAY
A typical freshman headed for a public flagship university in his or her home state this fall will pay about $5,838 in tuition and fees, suggests USA TODAY's annual survey of 75 top schools in 50 states. The median increase among schools studied was 6.4%.
Although costs to families are still on the rise, in most places they have slowed from the double-digit increases of a few years ago.
USA TODAY has been tracking annual changes since 2003, when in-state charges shot up about 12% from the previous year.
Since then, the median increase for in-state tuition and fees was about 38%. In some states, the hikes were much higher: 95% at the University of Oklahoma-Norman, 85% at the University of Arizona-Tucson, and 80% at the University of California-Berkeley.
At schools in some states that have held down increases for the past few years, such as the University of Hawaii-Manoa, tuition and fees this year jumped about 20% for both in-state and out-of-state students, to $4,522 and $12,394, respectively. Even with the increases, it is still less expensive than three-fourths of flagships surveyed.
In previous years the state legislature "artificially maintained" lower tuition by giving Manoa more money; this year's hikes will help put prices closer to the national average, says Neal Smatresk, vice chancellor for academic affairs.
Across the USA, in-state tuition and fees this year range from a high of $12,164 a year at Penn State, the most expensive school surveyed for five years in a row, to $3,206 at the University of Florida-Gainesville with the lowest. The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor has the highest out-of-state tuition while the University of South Dakota-Vermillion has the lowest.
Public university tuition often hangs on the generosity of the state legislature, says Travis Reindl, director of state policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. With a healthier economy than in years past, legislatures have given an average of 6% more money to schools this year, he says.
"Having said how good that is, it's important to remember colleges and universities are digging themselves out of holes of various sizes due to less funding in the previous five years," when the economy was weaker, he says.
Public universities often are the first victims of budget cuts, says Dallas Martin of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. Universities compete directly with budget priorities such as Medicaid, pensions, K-12 schools and other programs, he says.
Higher education cuts may be easier for legislators to justify because, unlike many other state budget items, they have an alternate source of income: tuition and fees.
But politics favors public education this year, as upcoming mid-term elections send officials scrambling to say they make education a priority, says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of aid tracker FinAid.org.
"In the three or four months before a midterm election, there is lots of posturing and bills to do something for education," he says.
State funding increases still aren't enough to cover rising employee health costs, skyrocketing utilities bills and the need for more buildings to cope with bulging enrollments, which account for continuing cost increases, Reindl says.