CSU tuition outpaces inflation rate, increases expected for next year

Stuart Smith

The price of tuition has exponentially increased beyond the rate of inflation at Colorado State University and across the country, and CSU anticipates another raise.

The Colorado State University Board of Governors is considering raising in-state tuition for undergraduate students for the 47th year in a row, according to the latest Board of Governors meeting.

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The projected increase would be by either 3 percent per semester, $164, or 5 percent per semester, $274. The projection is based on the anticipation of no increase in funds from the state legislature.

While college expenses go beyond tuition, such as student fees, meal plans, textbooks and housing, the cost of tuition has increased well beyond the rate of inflation.

In 2010-2011, in-state tuition for a full year at CSU cost $5,256. For the 2015-2016 school year, it cost $8,301: an increase of 57 percent. If tuition had only been adjusted for inflation, students would be paying a total of $5,805 for a year’s worth of tuition.

Since the 1950-1951 school year, in-state tuition at CSU has seen an increase of over 7,000 percent, going from an annual tuition of just $114 to $8,301. This is more than seven times what it would be if in-state tuition had only been increased to adjust for inflation.

But, there are several factors at play that contribute to raising tuition at the University. One of the highest states in altitude ranks as one of the lowest states in terms of state funding for higher education.

Governor Hickenlooper came to speak on campus with members of the CSU community last Friday. Hickenlooper will release the state’s $27 billion budget Nov. 3, but it will still have to be approved by the legislature. About $11 billion of the budget is general fund.

CSU’s provost, Rick Miranda, does not anticipate knowing how much money the University will have to play with until late next semester.

CSU President Tony Frank explained how this affects a student’s tuition in an interview with the Collegian published on Oct. 19.

“If you take state funding per student and tuition together, the amount we have to educate a student, and correct them over time for inflation, the amount we have to educate a student is about four percent more than it was 20 years ago; remarkably flat cost of educating students. But, what has changed over that time is the state support per student has gone down dramatically, and tuition has gone up dramatically,” Frank said.

Colorado is currently ranked 46th out of the 50 states in terms of state funding support for higher education, according to a study done by Illinois State and the Colorado-based State Higher Education Executive Officers Association that was published in late January of 2016.

According to the SHEEO, educational appropriations per student in Colorado fell by 16.3 percent, from $4,215 to $3,529, between 2008 and 2015.

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Since 1990, educational appropriations per student in Colorado have dropped by nearly $2,000, and saw a major decline in 2003 that has not yet been fixed.

Along with this, Colorado institutions have seen an increase in net tuition revenue of 120 percent since 1990, with an increase from $4,106 to $9,061.

colorado public fte enrollment and appropriations per fte 1990-2015.png

But, rising tuition and decreasing state contributions are not just a trends in Colorado, they appear nationwide.

Arizona, according the the Illinois State survey, is behind Colorado ranked 49th in the nation in terms of how few appropriations are given to higher education.

From 2008 to 2015, Arizona cut educational appropriations per FTE by 35.7 percent, from $8,325 to $5,350.

And, while Colorado is spending $145 per resident on higher education in 2016, Arizona is spending $115 per resident on higher education. This has resulted in an increase in net tuition revenue per FTE from 2008 to 2015 of 60 percent.

Because of the low amount that Arizona spends on higher education, its public universities saw the highest increase in in-state tuition in the nation from the 2008-2009 academic year to the 2013-2014 academic year, with an increase of 70 percent. Colorado was not far behind, with the eighth highest increase in in-state tuition in that time period, with an increase of 48 percent.

But, this trend of rising tuition is not only happening in states that do not subsidize higher education well. States that are well above the national average of educational appropriations are also seeing rising costs of attendance.

California, for example, is paying $336 per resident for higher education in 2016. And, while California only decreased educational appropriations per FTE by 5.6 percent from 2008 to 2015, it saw an increase in net tuition revenue per FTE for its public institutions of 61.7 percent.

This is best shown by the increase of tuition for the California State University system, which saw a hike of 117 percent in base undergraduate tuition in less than a decade, and a 238 percent increase in 15 years.

As states across the nation grapple with rapidly increasing tuition prices, Colorado may have more insight in the coming week as to how the state legislatures will act this year.

The state budget, which will provide more details on anticipated state funding for higher education, will be presented Nov. 3.

According to Frank, the issue of rising tuition can be attributed in part to the changing norms of responsibility.

“What hasn’t really changed is the cost for us as a university is the cost of educating a student,” Frank said. “What has changed is who we ask to pay for it. Our society is transferring that cost (away) from all of us collectively.”

Collegian reporter Stuart Smith can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @notstuartsmith.