October 05, 2004 1 min read

Rising Tuition Costs Seen as Threat

The rising costs of college tuition combined with a reduction in state and federal funding could threaten the prospects of aspiring college students, particularly those from low-income families, concludes a recent report released by the Lumina Foundation for Education.

“No issue is more important than the issue of affordability,” Martha D. Lamkin, the president and chief executive officer of the Indianapolis-based foundation, said in a statement. “Dramatic increases in college costs, ... [if] left unchecked, threaten America’s future.”

“Collision Course: Rising College costs Threaten America’s Future,” is available online from the Lumina Foundation for Education. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

A 2003 study by the College Board found that average tuition and fees have increased 47 percent in the past decade. If those tuition increases continue, foundation officials estimate, 4.4 million low-income college-ready students by 2010 will not be able to attend college.

The foundation, which issued a policy brief in July, offered 33 potential strategies that could be used by states and the federal government, higher education institutions, parents, and K-12 districts to combat the problem.

For example, the foundation suggests that state governments expand need-based grant programs and provide colleges and universities with budgetary incentives to graduate more students.

Meanwhile, the foundation suggests, parents and secondary schools could increase opportunities for students through better financial planning and encouraging those students to take more rigorous coursework.

Robert C. Dickeson, the foundation’s senior vice president for policy and the author of the report, said that the very history of higher education in the United States has been one of the greatest barriers to a solution.

“It’s kind of a crazy quilt that has evolved historically,” he said, pointing out that because many higher education institutions get their money from a variety of sources, funding formulas vary greatly. “It’s time to sit down and disaggregate these institutions and ask: What is the proper role of the federal government? The state government?”

Foundation officials are also calling for proposals for solutions. Proposals must be sent to the foundation by Nov. 30.

—Marianne D. Hurst

A version of this article appeared in the September 01, 2004 edition of Education Week