California used $1.4 billion in stimulus money to pay nearly 30 percent of its higher education tab two years ago, but stimulus accounted for less than 1 percent in 2010.

Like most states, Nevada’s stimulus infusion only softened a steep spending slide. The higher education budget fell about $210 million, almost 30 percent, over the last three years, even with the stimulus.

“We have frozen pay in the system. We have closed programs. We have cut back everything we could. You name it, we’ve cut it,” said Dan Klaich, chancellor for Nevada’s higher education system.

Without the stimulus boost, at least 35 states have been forced to make further cuts in higher education spending for the 2011-12 school year, with double-digit decreases in 13 states. That means tuition hikes, which for years had exceeded the rate of inflation, are even greater.

At Colorado State University in Fort Collins, students are paying about 20 percent more this year, up to about $8,000 for in-state and $24,000 for out-of-state tuition. For many, that means extra roommates, second jobs or giving up dreams of studying abroad.

The rising costs were the reason junior Ryan Thistlethwaite to join the Air Force ROTC program.

The human development and family services major pays out-of-state tuition with student loans and said he made the decision after figuring he would owe about $125,000 after four years at Colorado State.

He will not receive an ROTC scholarship, but he will be guaranteed a job after finishing school to help pay off his loans. “The money, I’d say that’s 60 percent of it, why I’m joining ROTC,” he said.

The cost shift from states to students has been going on for years, according to State Higher Education Executive Officers, a group that tracks college funding.

Adjusted for inflation, public colleges and universities in 1985 received about $7,479 per student from their states, with about $2,274 per student coming from tuition. The group says the amount coming from state budgets dropped to an average of $6,451 in 2010, while the tuition portion rose to $4,321.

Mike McNeil, who was helping his freshman daughter move into her dorm at Colorado State, shook his head at the tuition hike and the bind it places on middle-class families.

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