College finances improve, but students still shoulder burdens

Higher education’s finances have mostly bounced back from the 2008 recession, but students still carry bulk of education-related costs.

college-spendingCollege and university finances have largely rebounded from the 2008 recession, but students still shoulder the bulk of education-related costs at most postsecondary institutions through tuition, according to a new report by the Delta Cost Project at the American Institutes for Research (AIR).

“The news for higher education finance in 2013 is generally positive: Per-student spending on education increased at all types of public and private institutions,” said Steven Hurlburt, a senior researcher at AIR and co-author of the report. “But one of the more unfortunate outcomes of the recession is that colleges and universities were unwilling or unable to restructure costs and shifted them onto students instead.”

The publication of “Trends in College Spending: 2003-2013” coincides with President Obama’s final State of the Union address, which is expected to trumpet the economic recovery since he took office in 2008. The recovery has not mitigated the ongoing student loan crisis, which exists partly because of the escalating price of a college degree.

While spending increased across all types of private and public institutions from 2012 to 2013, public and private research universities and master’s institutions largely bounced back from the recession, according to the report. At public four-year colleges and universities, average spending rose by 2-3 percent, the largest increase since the start of the recession in 2008.

Next page: Additional findings about college spending and finances

Laura Ascione