Here's the Real Reason Tuition Is Skyrocketing at State Universities

September 15th 2016

Danielle DeCourcey

College is expensive, but more than 20 million students nevertheless attended in 2016.

This means millions of young people have to figure out how to pay an average of $19,548 a year in tuition, fees, room, and board at public colleges and universities, according to the College Board.

So why are colleges costs so high?

State budget cuts to education funding are the biggest factor in the rising cost of tuition at state schools, according to FiveThirtyEight, a blog dedicated to statistical analysis of politics, policy, and sports.

Schools that don't receive as much funding from the state as they used to have to raise tuition.

Take South Carolina, which had the median tuition increase among states, meaning its increase ranked in the middle among the states. About 81 percent of South Carolina's public college and university tuition increases was attributable to cuts in the state budget for education.

"Changes in funding and tuition at public universities."

The top 10 public schools with the biggest increases in tuition were in states where budget cuts directly correlated.

Colorado's tuition per student rose $7,700 when that state dropped $7,800 in funding per student.

It's probably going to get worse.

State funding for public institutions will reach zero by 2059, and the loss of that funding will result in higher tuition costs for students, according to a 2012 analysis for the American Council on Education by policy analyst Thomas Mortensen. The trend will cut lower-income students out of higher education, the people public colleges and universities are intended to serve, he wrote.

"Many public universities are enrolling a shrinking share of students from lower-income families and competing most aggressively for the students that can afford to pay higher tuitions with institutional discounts," wrote Mortensen.

There are more than 3,000 public colleges and universities in the the U.S., and the costs are rising at many of them.

ATTN: previously wrote about a New York Times report that found state schools are recruiting foreign students and students from other states who can afford the higher tuition rates.

Rising college costs spurred people on Twitter to speculate on other reasons for the hikes.

But it's clear that the most significant reason for the higher costs at publicly funded colleges and universities isn't new dorms, student organizations, faculty salaries, new classes, or the football team.

RELATED: Some Students Are Funding College in an Unconventional Way: Sugar Daddies