Annual hikes in tuition at public colleges and universities across the United States have come to be expected amongst students and parents who pay the bills each semester. Many state officials are taking a stand on this issue and proposing freezes on tuition at their public colleges and universities in exchange for more state funds for future years.
Nebraska has recently joined a growing number of states are in favor of this trend including Arizona, California, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Texas, and Washington.
One problem that history has shown with states experimenting with tuition freezes is that when the state funds run low and public universities are forced to raise tuition again, the increase is often higher than usual. With public funds being so tight due to economic turmoil over the past decade, money given to public colleges and universities has decreased in many states because many lawmakers felt that more of the financial burden should fall on the students who are benefiting from attending these schools.
Different states are adopting different policies when it comes to freezing tuition for its public college and university students. For example, at the University of Minnesota, undergraduates are guaranteed a tuition freeze for two years if the state government will spend an additional $92 million on the university during that time. Kansas and Illinois have adopted locked rates for tuition, which allows students to pay the same tuition rate for their four years of attendance.
In Nebraska, state officials and state college leaders have announced what they are calling “a compact” which freezes resident tuition for two years. This would affect both undergraduate and graduate students and would call for an increase of funding to Nebraska state colleges and universities of about 9% over the two years.
Experts who study higher education feel that the solution to affordable tuition lies in both a steady amount of state funding, and reasonable and predictable tuition increases throughout the years. The predictability factor is important for parents with young children who might be trying to plan for college expenses for the future.
The states and taxpayers have to be willing to allocate enough funds to schools in each state in order for the tuition freezes to be effective. In theory, tuition freezes seem like a win-win for students and parents who consequently have to come up with less money each year. However, if the lack of tuition funds coming in cannot be matched or increased by state funding, both students and faculty will suffer the consequences and the value of the education will be lessened.