Private, for-profit higher education options benefit from increased public university costs

Private, for-profit higher education options benefit from increased public university costs
Private, for-profit higher education options benefit from increased public university costs | Courtesy of Shutterstock
Since the 2008 recession, public colleges and universities have generally experienced decreased per-pupil state spending, which has led to mass layoffs of faculty and staff members, and tuition hikes.

According to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “funding for public two and four-year colleges is nearly $10 billion below what it was just prior to the recession.”  

Meanwhile, since the 2007-08 school year, annual tuition at four-year public colleges has risen more than 60 percent in seven states; more than 40 percent in 14 states; and more than 20 percent in 39 states.

Lawrence Officer, professor of economics for the University of Illinois at Chicago, said public universities were historically intended to provide quality education at low tuition rates compared with private universities.

“That was the whole point: that you didn’t have to be rich,” Officer said. “You can’t afford a private university; therefore, you go to a public university which would be financed largely through tax dollars -- and that was the theory.”

However, now there isn’t much difference between a public university’s tuition and a private university’s tuition, Officer said, except for the elite private universities that have a much higher tuition.

“The economy changed and state budgets became tight -- Illinois, Michigan, many states with the exception maybe of states like Texas and Alaska that have a lot of oil money until recently,” Officer said. “So, our state budgets got tight and so the states could not fund or would not fund public universities to the extent that they used to.”

Moreover, Officer believes schools are not doing as much as they could or should, and the budget crunch has led to larger class sizes and resulted in some courses being taught by graduate students instead of faculty.

“When there’s a budget crunch, you have to make some tough choices,” he said. “So do you cut down on the number of courses you offer, or do you have people with less experience teaching the courses?”

Officer went on to say that, although many people have had to work through college, working full-time and going to school full-time puts students in a very difficult situation.

“Many kids are working more than they should,” he said. “It breaks my heart when I speak to students who don’t come to class regularly. And when I ask them why they don’t, they say it’s because they have to work.”

The only other alternative for many students is to rely more heavily on student loans.

Total student debt in America is $1.26 trillion, representing the second largest consumer debt after mortgages, USA Today reported.

A state-by-state comparison showed that graduates in Utah have the least student debt -- an average of $7,527 per student. Graduates in New Hampshire, on the other hand, have an average of $25,740 in student debt upon graduation.

Organizations in this story


University of Illinois at Chicago 1200 W Harrison St Chicago, IL - 60607

Get notified the next time we write about University of Illinois at Chicago!