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The Trouble With Public Colleges

Record applications. Soaring tuition. Tighter budgets. State U. may no longer be as great a deal or as easy a backup as it once was. Parents and kids, time to rethink your strategy.

Less money for learning.
Even before the recession, money was tight on many campuses. From 2000 to 2008, state aid to public colleges nationwide fell from $7,800 a student to just over $7,000, according to the group State Higher Education Executive Officers. That number is inflation-adjusted for the rising price of running a college.

Tuition (still) rising.
At the University of Washington, students may see 14% hikes for each of the next two years. Most of a $620 in-state hike at State University of New York campuses won’t even go to students’ education — it will help the state balance its budget. “The state gave us big cuts, and then said, yes, you can raise tuition, and then took back 80% of that tuition increase,” says president Shirley Strum Kenny of SUNY at Stony Brook.

Tighter admissions.
There’s a bumper crop of college-bound seniors these days, and now the economy has even more of them looking at publics. Binghamton University, a top campus in the SUNY system, had 34,000 applications for 2,800 spots — a record for the school — and accepted just 32%.

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Publish date: May 10, 2009