Public university tuition across the country has skyrocketed in the last several years, and a new report from Dēmos finds that state government funding cuts are the primary reason. 

“We find that declining state appropriations for higher education is indeed the primary driver of rising tuition, responsible for 79 percent of tuition hikes at public research universities between 2001 and 2011 and 78 percent of tuition hikes at public master’s and bachelor’s universities.”

State support fell by $4,081 for public research universities and $2,067 for public master’s and bachelor’s universities between 2001 and 2011. At the same time, tuition increased by $3,628 and $2,463 respectively. In North Carolina alone, the average public university student has seen her tuition increase by over $2,000 – nearly 70 percent - in the last 10 years.

 Net Tuition and State Support, 2001-2011

Dēmos also explicitly debunks arguments that identify rising administrative costs and increased financial aid as potential causes for rising tuition. Increased spending on administration is responsible for six percent of tuition hikes at public research universities and five percent at public master’s and bachelor’s universities. Increased grant and loan aid had an even smaller effect on tuition.

“Unfortunately, declining state support for higher education means that many students today have no choice but to take on significant debt to finance their educations, the negative effects of which are increasingly evident in young people’s lives.”

If states continue to decrease funding for public universities, these schools will have to keep increasing tuition to make up the difference. What should be an accessible ladder to the middle class is becoming less and less accessible for low-income families.

 Click here to read the full report.