DC Shuttle: Tuition Rose in 2011 to Make Up for Cuts in State Support; New Tools for College Readiness, Aid

State and local spending on higher education fell to an average of $6,290 per full-time student in 2011—its lowest level in 25 years, according to a study released by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO). Total funding for higher education from state and local sources fell by $1.3 billion between FY2008 at the beginning of the recession and FY2011. During that same time, national student enrollment increased by 12.5%. To compensate for this loss of funding, institutions of higher education increased tuition; per-student tuition revenue climbed to a record $4,774 in 2011. The portion of higher education revenue derived from tuition rose from 23.2% in 1986 to 43.3% in 2011, as colleges became increasingly dependent on tuition to fund their operations. SHEEO policy analyst Andrew Carlson predicted that next year’s numbers would continue the trend, with states dropping higher education funding levels and enrollment projected to increase.

On Capitol Hill, Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced a bipartisan bill (S. 2194) on Thursday to create a grant program encouraging schools and nonprofit organizations to establish individual college-readiness tracking systems which low-income students could access online. These profiles would allow counselors, teachers and others to contribute academic and behavioral information which students could track online. The system would also link to a college savings account and provide financial literacy and college preparation information. A spokesperson for Sen. Rubio said the bill represents “a significant step in providing low-income students with the resources and support they need to succeed at a higher education institution.” Sen. Coons indicated that Congresswoman Chaka Fattah (D-PA) is planning to introduce a companion bill in the House this week.

The U.S. Education Department released a new tool to help high school administrators monitor their students’ Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) submissions and completions. The department collects data on FAFSA submissions by students up to age 18 by state, city and high school, and will release this information for the first time on a public website. Officials plan to update the data every two weeks.

On Tuesday, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced that a total of $54.8 million will be divided between Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Jersey to increase the availability of public charter schools. Massachusetts will receive $3.2 million in the first year of the grant, $5.4 million in the second year, and $3.5 in the final year for a total of $12.1 million under the Charter Schools Program state educational agency (SEA) competition.

As a member of New England Council, we publish the DC Shuttle each week featuring higher ed news from Washington. This edition is drawn from the Council’s Weekly Washington Report Higher Education Update, of March 19, 2012.

Founded in 1925, the New England Council is a nonpartisan alliance of businesses, academic and health institutions, and public and private organizations throughout New England formed to promote economic growth and a high quality of life in the New England region. The Council’s mission is to identify and support federal public policies and articulate the voice of its membership regionally and nationally on important issues facing New England. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.

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