These numbers look horrible. They're only a little bad.
Yesterday, the Department of Education offered up yet another bit of awful sounding news about the cost of college, when it reported that tuition at four-year, public institutions had jumped up 15 percent in two years -- even faster than the cost of health care. At private schools, they rose by almost 10 percent on average. If there was suddenly a run on Xanax at your neighborhood CVS, you can safely blame it on anxiety-ridden parents.
But while everyone chews their meds, I'd like to offer a few reasons for calm.
First off, when it comes to the price of higher education, all statistics are local. One of the biggest factors influencing tuition is the amount of government support college systems receive, and budget cuts have varied wildly from state to state over the past few years. So perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that the most drastic price hikes have been concentrated in just a few places. Of the 100 schools which raised tuition most between the 2008-2009 and the 2010-2011 school years, 70 were located in five states -- Arizona, California, Georgia, Florida, and Washington. Meanwhile, seven of the top twelve were in Puerto Rico (yes, they are included in this survey). Should it concern most American parents that the University of Puerto Rico -- Aguadilla raised its sticker price by 53 percent, or a little less than $1,000 dollars? Probably not.*