Cost of Attendance Report for 1997
Are Connecticut Public Colleges Affordable?
The debate over whether colleges and universities are affordable is not unique to Connecticut. In fact, the higher education community at large is witnessing as never before challenges to the fundamental underpinnings of many states low-cost tuition policies. This debate is not an easy one to conclude. The first major obstacle in discussions is gaining some consensus on what affordability means and what measures or benchmarks would be used to assess and monitor process. While there has been progress in this arena, there is no one accepted or steadfast answer to this issue.
This section of the report will examine several ways one might begin to assess affordability. It will compare tuition and fee rates to national and regional peers and to changes in per capita income and personal disposable income. A discussion on how the level of state commitment to higher education, including an examination of the relative student versus state share of educational costs, has changed over the last few years also is provided. It is important to note that none of these measures, by itself, can fully address the issue. However, it is hoped that examination of these trends, collectively, will enable Connecticut policy-makers to begin a candid discussion of how "affordable" the states higher education system is or should be.
One benchmark of affordability is to compare tuition and fees to those of other states, both on the national and regional level. Tables 9 and 10 compare Connecticut tuition and fee rates for in-state undergraduates, not including room and board costs, to those of similar institutions in other states. The University of Connecticut ranks 7th in the nation and 6th in the region (10 states), making it one of the highest priced public systems in the country. Its rate of increase in tuition and fees since 1991 outpaces that of both the nation and the region at 67 percent compared to 56 and 59 percent, respectively.
Average rates at the Connecticut State University have gone from 18th in 1991 to 10th this year. Among its regional peers, it ranks six out of 10. The rate of increase in its tuition and fees since 1991 far exceeds national and regional trends, growing by more than 92 percent. This compares to rates of just 52 percent on the national level and 62 percent regionally.
While the Community-Technical Colleges show a similar pattern, they remain more affordable relative to other states than do UConn or CSU. Their national rank has risen from 22nd in 1991 to 16th this year. On a regional level, their rank remains as it has since 1992 at eight out of 10.
These data seem to indicate is that Connecticut institutions, while still competitive with neighboring states in terms of in-state tuition rates, have reached at critical point from a national perspective. It may not be surprising, then, to see more Connecticut students making choices to attend more competitively priced out-of-state public institutions instead of Connecticuts own public institutions.
Comparisons to Growth in Income
Another method of monitoring college affordability is to examine tuition and fee cost trends in relation to the growth disposable income. Under this analysis, tuition and fee costs, particularly at our public four-year institutions, became significantly less affordable during the 1990s as rates grew at faster pace than income. As illustrated in Chart 7 on page 23, tuition and fees at the University of Connecticut (not including room and board costs) represented just 11 percent of Disposable Income Per Capita (DIPC) in 1980. This proportion declined to a low of 8.5 percent in 1982, and rose steadily to about 20 percent in 1995. At the Connecticut State University, the trend was similar. Tuition and fees represented about 7.5 percent of DIPC in 1980. This declined somewhat to a low of 7 percent in 1984, but grew significantly in the 1990s to almost 15 percent by 1995. The Community-Technical Colleges, which have the primary mission of assuring low cost access to higher education, also had their relative affordability erode. In 1980, tuition and fees at these colleges represented just 3.7 percent of DIPC. By 1995, this percentage increased almost two-fold to 6.3 percent.
When room and board charges at our four-year institutions are included, the results are even more telling (Chart 8 on page 23). At UConn, average costs including room and board of $2,351, represented 24.5 percent of DIPC in 1980. By 1995, these costs grew to $9,168 and now represent more than 38 percent of DIPC. At CSU, the trend was similar with total costs rising from 23 percent of DIPC in 1980 to more than 31 percent in 1995. All of these trends seem to indicate that costs at our public system have far exceeded the growth in disposable income and, therefore, state residents ability to keep up with these costs. Year-to-year fluctuation in tuition and fees, in particular are difficult to bear.
Financial Aid Growth
Still another measure of college affordability is to gauge how well student financial assistance funds have kept pace with cost increases. As reported earlier, state funds for student financial aid have remained stagnant, and federal aid has not kept pace with cost increases. Only the tuition set-aside funds, as required by Board of Governors policy, have grown at a pace consistent with tuition increases. But even that has been insufficient to narrow the gap between financial need and available aid. Students are leaving college with significant debt burdens. Recent reports by the University of Connecticut indicate that the average debt of an undergraduate (all students, not just the neediest) upon leaving the University is almost $10,400. Graduate students face an average of $18,600. At CSU, the figure is equally as daunting with average debts ranging from $7,200 to $7,700.10
Changes in State Commitment to Higher Education
The Board of Governors of Higher Education, in its statutory role of setting statewide tuition policy, has issued several basic principles to guide the setting of tuition and fees for Connecticuts public higher education system. These include the following:
"Principles Underlying Tuition Policy
Within this framework, the Board adopted policies aimed at clarifying and monitoring the relative share of educational cost borne by the student and the state. For budget development purposes, this policy calls for the student share of educational cost to fall
within 30 to 35 percent of the total for our four-year institutions and 20 to 30 percent at our two-year institutions.12 These ranges were intended to represent a consensus within the higher education community on what is a reasonable balance between what the state should bear and what the student should bear of direct educational costs (i.e. not room and board). They were not, however, intended to make a determination, per se, of what a student could afford.
As state support for higher education has dwindled and institutions have passed costs onto to students, the share of the budget borne by students has risen dramatically. In fact, all of the constituent units of higher education now exceed the Boards policy maximum. Estimates for this year place the students share at UConn at about 41 percent, 43 percent at CSU and 37 percent at the Community-Technical Colleges.
Looking at this same issue on a "cost per student basis" makes trends clearer and more understandable. In this analysis, the relative share of educational costs borne by students and the state is compared on a full-time equivalent (FTE) student basis. Total costs include direct educational costs or "educational and general" expenses as defined by national higher education standards. They exclude auxiliary enterprises such as dormitories and food service operations. The costs include estimated fringe benefits which are paid by the state, but not directly appropriated to higher education, and bonded capital equipment expenditures. State support for capital infrastructure projects and financial aid are not included.
As shown in Chart 9, the estimated cost per student this year at the University of Connecticut is $18,451. Of this, the state pays about $12,043, or 65 percent, and the student pays $6,408, or 35 percent, on average. (Note that this includes both undergraduate and graduate student costs.) At the Connecticut State University, estimated costs per student are $11,736 with the state contributing $6,980, or 59 percent, and the student picking up $4,756, or 41 percent. For Community-Technical College students, costs average about $8,983. Of this, the state supports $6,303, or 70 percent, and the student supports $2,650, or 30 percent.
Chart 9: State and Student Share of E&G Costs Per Student FY 1997
As illustrated in Charts 10-12, the proportion of state support per student at the University of Connecticut has declined from 78 percent in 1989 to 65 percent today. At the Connecticut State University, state support dwindled from 74 percent in 1989 to just 59 percent this year. Even at the Community-Technical Colleges, students have been asked to pick up a much larger share of the costs of education. State support has plummeted from 84 percent to 70 percent in just eight years. Again, these comparisons exclude additional costs students bear for room and board.
State and Student Share of E&G Costs Per Student - 1989-1997
Chart 10: University of Connecticut
Chart 11: Connecticut State University
Chart 12: Community-Technical Colleges
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