Report shows rising student debt for college undercuts path to middle class

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Average costs top one-third median family income in many states


Higher education in the United States has become a debt-for-diplomas system in which most students borrow increasing amounts and colleges increasingly use tuition revenue to balance their books.

New statistics to buttress that case are in a recent report by the public-policy organization Dēmos, “The Great Cost Shift Continues: State Higher Education Funding After the Recession.”

The study finds that every state – with the exception of North Dakota – spends less per student on higher education than before the Great Recession. In fact, 28 states cut spending by more than 25 percent.

In response, tuition at public four-year universities rose 20 percent after 2008, following a 14 percent increase in the four years prior.

Tuition at those four-year public universities now averages 15 percent of the median family income in 26 states. Average total cost – including room and board – consumes more than one-third of median household income in 23 states.

“The diminishing affordability of higher education is eroding one of the last secure pathways into the middle class,” says Robert Hiltonsmith, policy analyst and co-author of the study. “The growth of the debt for diploma system has only intensified since the Great Depression.”

Like two earlier, related reports from Dēmos, “The Great Cost Shift Continued” was written with support from Kresge’s Education Program. The earlier reports are the “The Great Cost Shift: How Higher Education Cuts Undermine the Future Middle Class” (2012) and “At What Cost? How Student Debt Reduces Lifetime Wealth” (2013).

Kresge works to expand opportunity for low-income people in America’s cities. Its Education Program promotes post-secondary access and success for low-income, first-generation and underrepresented students. 

The release of the new report coincides with the Higher Ed, Not Debt campaign in which more than 60 organizations are advocating for new funding models to reinstate the nation’s once debt-free system of higher education.

Up until about two decades ago, state funding ensured college tuition remained within the reach of most middle-class families, and financial aid ensured that lower-income students could afford the cost of college. States have disinvested in higher education at the same time that low- and middle-income households have seen stagnant or declining household income.

News Source : Report shows rising student debt for college undercuts path to middle class

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