Talking about broad topics is fraught with peril. As I mentioned last week, college applications are up, except that they’re only up at some schools and a lot of the increase comes from students submitting more applications, not more students submitting applications. Today I’m going to tackle public university tuition directions for the coming year.
Before going there, I need to point out to high school seniors and their families that aid awards at public schools will show the current year’s tuition. Most years, tuition and fees aren’t finalized until the state budget is passed. Most states’ fiscal years start July 1, so budgets typically aren’t finalized until June, well after students have been admitted and accepted. This year, one might expect particularly fraught legislative budgetary sessions.
We can get a sense of the direction states are going from governors’ State of the State addresses, which happen in January. Fortunately, the Education Commission of the States tracks education-related proposals in State of the State addresses, and this year there were plenty. Coming on the heels of last year’s slashing of higher education budgets and the drumbeat of calls from states for more federal aid to help with pandemic-related costs, one might reasonably expect tuition to be on the rise again. In fact, based on State of the States, it’s pretty mixed, with many states looking to increase funding while others are cutting.
States looking to increase funding– whether by general increases or targeted programs– include California, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Missouri and New Mexico. On the opposite side, Hawaii and Nevada, both of which have been hammered by the loss of tourism dollars in the pandemic, are looking at sharp decreases in funding for higher education, according to Inside Higher Ed.
One challenge for states for the 2021-2022 school year is the difficulty in raising tuition in the current environment of primarily online education and high unemployment. Both of those mean there is no real fallback option of pushing cost increases onto students. Of course, most state legislatures are also hoping to learn that the federal stimulus package will increase funding to states, which could help fill some of the holes in state budgets.
So, what does this mean for you? It means you should do some research into state budgets for any public schools you are applying to– especially because scholarships most likely won’t increase with tuition increases. Learning in July that your tuition is going to be 10% higher than you planned for could be a big shock to your financial plan. Now is a great time to google “[state] higher education budget.”