Who’s to blame for rising tuition prices at public colleges?

first_imgBut the precise impact of state budget cuts on student tuition has never really been clear — a drop in one doesn’t usually lead to an equal increase in the other.“There’s this accepted narrative that is repeated everywhere from Capitol Hill to state legislatures with very little evidence,” Jason Delisle, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told me.He found only three studies addressing this question over the last two decades.“Anywhere else in higher education, few people would make the assertions they are making with that little evidence,” he added.The body of research on the topic is slowly growing, however, as two studies in recent months have attempted to answer the question about whether state budget cuts are to blame for higher tuition prices.One, by the right-learning American Enterprise Institute, found that tuition prices at public institutions rise by only $5 for every $100 cut from direct subsidies per student.The other, in the journal Economics of Education Review, found the pass-through rate is about $25 for every $100 cut. And the gap between in-state and out-of-state tuition prices charged by public campuses has grown significantly in many states as colleges see out-of-state students as a critical revenue source.Then there is the news out of Pennsylvania this past week that a 4-month-old state budget impasse might lead the so-called state-related campuses — Penn State, Temple, Lincoln and the University of Pittsburgh — to eliminate lower tuition prices altogether for in-state students.Leaders at those four Pennsylvania schools blame state lawmakers for bringing their institutions to the brink of what would be a hefty tuition increase — about $10,000 at Penn State alone.Since 2000, lawmakers have been chipping away at taxpayer appropriations to the Pennsylvania schools, which have seen their share decline by some $4,000 per student.Average tuition revenue increased by $5,880 per student over the same period.The story is similar in other states: Appropriations to public colleges are cut, or at the best, remain flat, and then tuition prices go up.That has resulted in a narrative repeated among public university officials nationwide in recent years that as states get out of the business of higher education, students are shouldering more of the cost of their own education. The renowned University of California system was tuition-free for state residents until the late 1960s.As late as 2001, when I covered the University of North Carolina system as a reporter, tuition and fees across the system were about $2,000 a year (today, tuition at the flagship Chapel Hill campus is about $8,900).Nowadays, higher education is seen as a private good that individuals pay for.This massive shift in public policy largely happened without much debate.A while back when I asked a legislator in Oregon if it was appropriate for students at public colleges to pay $40,000 for four years of college.The response I got was this: “Sure, that’s the price of a new car.”What’s notable is that increases in public college tuition have mostly come at the hands of state lawmakers and higher-education leaders who themselves benefited from low tuition rates at state universities when they earned degrees. Categories: Editorial, OpinionComplaints about rising college costs are nothing new, but for students and parents calculating the price of college these days, the exercise has become a much more complicated task compared to just a decade ago.Tuition at four-year public colleges, which historically had always been well below the sticker price of private colleges, has risen more than 100 percent in real dollars since 2001, after taking inflation into account.Meanwhile, the discounts offered by private colleges on their prices are now above 50 percent on some campuses, bringing their “net-tuition prices” — that is, what students actually pay — closer to public schools.center_img Although the two studies landed on somewhat different numbers, Delisle said the spread between the two still shows that a majority of tuition increases aren’t tied to cuts in state budgets.“There’s something else going on with tuition that is out of the hands of state legislators,” he said.The author of the second study, Douglas Webber, a Temple University economics professor, told me that calculating the cost of state budget cuts on students is difficult because multiple factors influence tuition prices.In some states, college leaders are limited by law in how much they can increase tuition.In other instances, they might decide to hold the line on tuition by trimming their own budgets first or raising more money through private sources.While it might not be clear who is to blame for higher tuition prices, there is no doubt that students at public colleges are shouldering more of the burden of paying for their education, whatever the reason.It used to be that higher education was seen as a public good that taxpayers support. In most states, tuition decisions have not only come without much debate, but without much of a long-range plan for the future of public higher education:Who should it serve? Who should pay for it?Instead, colleges and lawmakers have limped along patching together short-term strategies, such as increases in out-of-state enrollment, to bring in more revenue.Tuition has too often turned into the balance-wheel of state finances, the go-to source for dollars when budgets for states or universities didn’t quite even out at the end of the day.It’s unclear how much longer both groups can use tuition as that lever they pull every year, and we might soon find out what the consequences of a lack of planning will be.Jeffrey J. Selingo is editor at large for the Chronicle of Higher Education.More from The Daily Gazette:EDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsEDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censusEDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationEDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homesFoss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen?last_img read more

A big, fat tax break from D.C. might curb generosity

first_imgCategories: Editorial, OpinionATLANTA — One big item in Republican tax plans would make figuring out our individual income taxes a little less crazy. But it comes at a price.So here’s a basic question millions of Americans may soon face, one that highlights the link between behavior and money:Will we donate less to charities if it’s harder to get a tax break for doing so?Nonprofits are nervousIn fact, nonprofits fear they might lose billions of dollars in donations. Because while the deductions for charitable contributions won’t go away, they (and some others such as a deduction for mortgage interest) would become way less relevant under the GOP tax plans.“They are keeping these deductions in name, but they are effectively going away for lots of folks,” said Gregg Polsky, a University of Georgia professor whose focuses include tax law.Initial proposals in both the House and Senate would nearly double the allowed standard deduction (from $6,350 to about $12,000 for singles, and from $12,700 to about $24,000 for married couples filing jointly).On the surface, this sounds like the government just gave us our wallets back.In reality it’s a bit more complicated than that, though it looks like most people will end up paying less in taxes.While increasing the standard deduction, the proposals eliminate personal exemptions of $4,050 per person, but also boost child tax credits and offer temporary new credits, but also mess with or eliminate other deductions.)One big deduction or many little ones?Every year, tens of millions of individual U.S. taxpayers have to decide whether it’s a better deal to take the standard deduction or to itemize deductions for things like charitable donations, home mortgage interest, state income taxes, real estate taxes, car taxes and medical expenses. I got in touch with Habitat for Humanity International, a pretty wonderful organization that does good by helping people get homes of their own.“Habitat for Humanity has serious concerns about the proposed tax bill’s impact on charitable giving,” Chris Vincent, a vice president for the organization, said in a statement emailed to me.“Habitat strongly urges Congress to preserve and enhance charitable giving incentives, to preserve the vital work that organizations like Habitat do with low-income families across the country.”Transformational giftsA United Way survey from a few years back suggested that 30 percent of Americans would give less if there was no tax incentive.Alicia Philipp, the president of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, told me she thinks people will still give money to nonprofits, they’ll just give less.What also worries her are simultaneous proposals to reduce estate taxes paid by the wealthiest segment of society.She works with some of those folks, and I think she’d love to see them and their heirs continue to thrive financially. But some give large donations as part of their estate planning, which includes the idea of preferring to give money to charities rather than to Uncle Sam.“I talk to a lot of estate planning attorneys. … They say 50 percent of their clients would actually change their behavior if this goes through,” Philipp said.Alarm clock for givingOur tax code works like an alarm clock for generosity. It rouses us and encourages us to donate now, before the end of the tax year or, if you’re rich, before you die, rather than procrastinating until who knows when.Try visiting a Salvation Army or Goodwill drop-off in the last few days of the year.Some centers hire police officers to manage the crush of people trying to donate items in time to claim them on their next income tax forms.“New Year’s Eve is that magical time in the financial year when we Americans become incredibly charitable, in part because we are a little greedy,” I wrote in a past column.“Isn’t it beautiful when self-interest collides with societal interest?”center_img Itemizing adds more complexity and time to what’s already a grueling process.But if it can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars, it’s worth it for lots of people.Nearly one in three people who file taxes itemize now.That could plummet to one in 20 if Congress essentially doubles the standard deduction as proposed, according to Richard Schmalbeck, a Duke University law professor who specializes in tax issues.People who don’t itemize no longer have a tax incentive to give to charities. Here’s why that’s a big deal, using some math from wonks at the Tax Policy Center.Someone with a tax rate that goes as high as 28 percent could give a $100 donation to a charity, but they’d see a $28 drop in taxes with the deduction. Which means that $100 donation ultimately only cost them $72. Keep in mind that the federal tax code is rife with exceptions and loopholes that help out some and not others.The tax proposals don’t come close to fully reforming the system.They only modestly address one of the biggest flaws in our federal income tax structure: It is far too complex.Regular families shouldn’t feel they need to hire accountants or pay for tax software just to make sure they are abiding by the law and paying neither more nor less in taxes than required.We can do better.Matt Kempner writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. More from The Daily Gazette:EDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censusEDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationEDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homesFoss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen?EDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristslast_img read more

Too much about people doing wrong

first_imgCategories: Letters to the Editor, OpinionWe seem to be going through an era of women being taken advantage of in many ways that were not too good.This action by men in power has been going on for over 3,000 or 4,000 years. Does this make it right? The answer is no. We all know that.Why did everyone wait so long to say something? I think there’s more to this than meets the eye, like breaking contracts with big corporations or like making politicians give up before their bad behavior is exposed. The list goes on and on. Now how about women CEOs who abuse men who work for their companies? You don’t hear too much about this, do you? All of this stuff shouldn’t make the national news, as it’s a bad part of human lives. Just think of the clergy, the doctors and other professionals that all of the above involves.We should have laws that if something takes place, the person involved has to put a claim in within one or two weeks of the incident or it’s over and done with.There’s so much more to all of this; you would need the entire paper to write about it and you would still not be finished. This stuff shouldn’t happen at all. But being humans, that’s the way it is — so sad.Let’s spend more time newswise to make this a better and safer America and world, and put all the other stuff on the back page.Sid GordonSaratoga More from The Daily Gazette:Foss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen?EDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationEDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsEDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homesEDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censuslast_img read more

Apply equal justice in serious car crashes

first_imgI read recently the outrage over the high school-age boy, whose drunken crash claimed the life of two other children, being up for parole.Now it’s followed by sympathetic coverage of a prominent businessman whose same action has caused a woman to be crippled for life, a paraplegic. He has a lawyer who is paid enough to twist a story into shape that a judge must follow that twist and release the offender. Where is the justice?Calvin MooreColonieMore from The Daily Gazette:EDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homesFoss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen?EDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censusEDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsEDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidation Categories: Letters to the Editor, Opinionlast_img read more

Politicians need to show more character

first_imgCategories: Letters to the Editor, Opinion Stephen Anderson makes a very valid argument in his May 10 letter. As Mr. Anderson describes it, the NRA’s “no-holds-barred shutdown of any thoughtful gun regulation” may backfire on civilian gun owners by failing to seek compromise on sensible gun-control measures. I agree with his conclusion and see it as a very plausible outcome.A key contributor to the NRA’s bold position is the malleable character of our elected officials.The NRA, Planned Parenthood, the National Education Association and other large lobbying groups are emboldened by the behavior of elected officials that adopt these lobbyist’s extreme positions. Compromise and sensible legislation take a back seat to filling re-election campaign coffers. More from The Daily Gazette:EDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsEDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homesFoss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen?EDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationEDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censuscenter_img Most people I speak with agree that there are areas to close gaps in existing gun regulations and also agree that abortion is a painful tragedy and not healthcare.Most people I speak with agree that rules around teacher tenure hamper a school administrator’s ability to remove poorly performing teachers, leaving students to suffer the consequences. While the average citizen can see common sense solutions, our elected officials are unwilling to reach across the aisle for fear of losing lobbyist dollars and ultimately their re-election.Until voters have the courage to elect candidates that are both willing to seek compromise toward the common good and have the ability to resist the temptations of lobbyists money, we will fail to achieve common sense legislation.We must demand higher character and better behavior from our elected officials if we have any hope of breaking out of the malaise that we are in.John McGuinnessGlenvillelast_img read more

A quizzical look at landlords

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Comment: Creating conditions to foster growth

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EBC to merge with Rockeagle

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Top names make big cutbacks on office space needs in Guildford

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Lend Lease expands HQ…

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