University of California students, rejoice: your tuition will not be going up this year. President Janet Napolitano announced to the system’s Board of Regents yesterday that she intends to continue the university’s tuition freeze for a third straight year. Given that this freeze began after three years in which tuition rose by more than 15 percent annually, this brings much needed relief for financially struggling students. It’s also a sign that the university, like many others, recognizes that tuition has gotten out of hand. Yet despite the good news, this freeze may give way to further, more painful hikes down the road. The WSJ reports:
The state legislative analyst’s office flagged “serious concerns” about tuition freezes in a report earlier this year, saying such moves are likely to “increase volatility for future students.” At UC, several years of tuition freezes and rollbacks in the late 1990s and early 2000s were followed by sharp annual increases, reaching nearly 40% in 2003-04….John Joanino, a 21-year-old sociology major and undergraduate student-body president at the University of California, Los Angeles, called Ms. Napolitano’s proposal “a step forward” but said holding the line isn’t enough. “College is becoming more and more inaccessible to students,” he said, adding that a “fee rollback” should be the university’s goal.
The lesson here is that solving the problem of skyrocketing costs will require deep reform to the higher-ed system, not just tuition freezes. Colleges need to find ways to deliver education more efficiently if freezes and eventual rollbacks are to be workable in the long term. Part of the blame here rests with government policies that encourage students to go into debt to pay for college without incentives for colleges to lower prices, but colleges ought to be more proactive. Online courses, MOOCs and allowing students to expedite their college careers by demonstrating subject knowledge are all good places to start.[Dollar bills image courtesy of Shutterstock]