U.S. College Expenses on the Rise

Tuition costs at four-year, public colleges in the U.S. have skyrocketed in recent years, according to evidence released recently by the Congressional General Accounting Office (GAO).In an August report, Higher Education: Tuition Increasing Faster Than Household Income and Public Colleges' Costs, GAO officials found that tuition had increased 234 percent in the 15 years from 1980 to 1995. The increase in household income over the same period, 82 percent, pales in comparison.Two factors were most responsible for the rising tuition costs: rising school expenditures for instruction, administration and research; and greater dependency of schools on tuition as a source of revenue.According to Jay Eglin, assistant director of the health education and human services department of the GAO, schools are not fully responsible for swelling tuition costs. Eglin said that in most cases higher education is receiving insufficient funds from the state."The individual states decide how to structure their budget and how they appropriate their federal funds, " Eglin said. "Our report found that the widening gap between income and tuition costs is a nationwide problem, one that most importantly has to be dealt with at the state level."The report found that on average, the share of revenues for four-year public institutions from state appropriations fell 14 percent in the 15-year period. At the same time, the share of the schools' revenues provided by tuition rose from 16 percent to 23 percent."Most schools are strapped for money but it is essential that they put their best efforts into keeping college costs down," Eglin said.According to Eglin, strategies for schools to combat the rising costs of tuition include making college easier to pay for through good financial aid programs, and requiring less units to graduate.On a federal level, Eglin said Congress in well aware that tuition costs are becoming less bearable, but elected officials need to be pushed to do something about the issue."We had 23 congressional requests to produce this report and we have been considering delivering the report as testimony to a congressional committee," he said.Currently, Congress is debating the amount of direct lending that should be allowed. Direct loans are distributed straight from the federal government to students, without the use of banks, lenders or loan agencies.Anthony Samu, student administrator to financial aid at the University of Colorado-Boulder, says the direct lending program is "a much better" alternative."Our school has the direct lending program and we don't get many complaints in the financial aid department," Samu said.

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