Public higher education in the U.S. is not in good shape. As states slowly chip away at education funding, tuition fees at public colleges are creeping up, and costs are increasingly being passed to students and their families.
A report released Thursday from educational advocacy group Young Invincibles highlights the extent of the problem. Data compiled in the report show that the average share of college fees and tuition paid by a student’s family has jumped from 36 percent in prerecession 2008 to 50 percent in 2014. Meanwhile, states have cut per-student spending by an average of 21 percent in that same period (some by as much as 41 percent) and hiked up tuition by even more.
On a state-by-state level, the numbers are even more dismal. Young Invincibles scored each state on its public education support, and no more than eight states received grades of B or higher.
A single state—Wyoming—received a letter grade of A.
It’s not the first time that the soaring costs of public education have been called into light. Federal data over the past several decades show that the cost of attending public colleges and universities has actually risen more rapidly than the cost of attending private schools. According to College Board, public four-year schools charged an average of $9,139 in 2015, compared to a measly $500 (in current dollars) in 1971.
Public colleges and universities enroll two-thirds of all of the U.S.’s higher-education students, and are intended in part to increase educational accessibility. So why are prices suddenly so steep?