Most of us would like to know what goes into, policies and/or procedures if you will, the setting of price of state public colleges’ and universities’ tuition and financial aid? At least, it may be safe to say it is pivotal to know such information when, determining what school your child expects to attend and what the costs may be or, a concern student in your classroom who has a lot of questions about college costs asks you how they should go about paying for school or, you yourself are looking to start college for the first time or looking to go back to school. Important questions that may come to mind are when is it strictly an in house affair, with individual institutions of higher education administrative and governing boards determining the price of tuition and the financial aid options available for the students? Or, is it a procedure set forth and determined by state policy makers based on a formula within the confines of a state’s budget? Or, better yet, is it a combination of both? In any event, it is very important and pertinent to know such information. As citizens, we may have a larger role in the matter than expected. Hence, the important question of this article is how are state public college and university financial aid and tuition determined?
In most states, public institutions of higher education are allowed to bring in funds/revenue from outside sources; sources other than state allocated funds, as long as it is within the guidelines of state policy and are used appropriately. These funds as they are used, may shift tuition levels and/or change what financial aid is available to their students. However, since we are talking about public colleges and universities, it may be safe to say that tuition and financial aid is determined by a state political and policy process. Private institutions may have more power in determining their tuition and financial aid policies with little influence or say from state political forces, therefore they normally fall under less guidelines or restrictions from state offices. However, with public colleges and universities, this is not the case, with them falling more so under the guidelines of state legislative offices and state higher education policy.
State higher education policy seems to be the most influential component in determining tuition and financial aid at public institutions of higher education. How is the state higher education policy enacted? With it being a political process, in addition to a cost associated with keeping the schools up and running, a state’s budget is critical when determining what funds are available for the schools, thus insinuating an economic element on pricing and financial aid policy. Economic impacts may be related to regional and social considerations including, what trends are currently in place as it pertains to funding colleges and universities, tuition levels, and financial aid options for students? In addition, a state’s higher education organization structure plays a role; who determines tuition levels and financial aid options for higher education institutions? Lastly, it seems that sate policy makers’ preferences play a role in determining tuition rates and financial aid policy of public institutions. What ideologies are prevalent among the policy makers and how do these ideologies affect decisions on tuition rates and financial aid for students?
Economic impacts are obvious. In some instances, the state budget may call for cuts in funding or allow for increases in funding for institutions. A supply and demand scheme may be used where tuition and financial aid are set mutually as an affair of parents ‘and/or students’ incomes and economic statuses, and how many students are attending school at one particular time. Regional and social constituent elements are worth identifying. States have shown similarities across regions and historical patterns in setting their tuition and financial aid policies. Hence, the area of the country where you are considering going to college may play a role in how much tuition you might have to pay or, what financial aid options will be available to you.
The structure of states’ higher education systems may be pivotal concerning how states determine how funds are allocated to diverse institutions. This may include providing funding for a certain percentage of the overall cost, an appropriation process based on subsidy levels (grants) for higher education, which in turn affect tuition levels and financial aid. Conversely, funding may be based on attendance, the number of students attending the institution. Tuition levels are usually negatively correlated with enrollment. A negative correlation means as one goes up the other goes down. Thus, if an institution’s enrollment numbers are up, then tuition rates will be down. Also, the structural system or policies in place may call for restrictions on how institutions acquire funds for their school outside of state funds, and how they are distributed and used within the institution.
In addition, the structure of states’ higher education systems determines who will be making the decisions regarding tuition and financial aid. It is wise to note influences these persons may succumb to while making tuition and financial aid decisions. Policy makers may be influenced by a number of different factors. Aside from the state’s economic condition or system of higher education policy structure, the context of the higher education institution itself plays a role. Some institutions that are deemed more important than others may receive more money, versus a less important institution, which will receive less money due to its less important status.
Policy maker’s preferences may be influenced by the degree of oversight they have in making their decisions. Their oversight may be persuaded by a centralized governing structure, allowing for less accountability on the policy maker’s part. They can make decisions without having to answer to too many people. Policy makers may also be able to exert their personal preferences according to the arrangement of institutions’ board of trustees. Less institutional influence and more board members from outside the university may allow policy makers to exert their will in greater extents. However, policy makers’ preferences, unique in their own respect, still work side by side with the implementation of any governance arrangement. This may include regional and social ideologies.
It is safe to say there are many factors significant when determining tuition rates and financial aid options for students of state public institutions of higher education. However, we can conclude the most pressing factors are the institutions’ sources of funds outside of state allocated funds and policy, state higher education system organizational structure and policy structure, policy makers’ actions, preferences, and decision makings and the organizational structure of the college and/or university. Hence, tuition and financial aid policy are a result of many dynamics and thus, can’t be contributed to just one single thing. When searching of a college or university for your son or daughter to attend, for a friend, relative or you to attend know the many factors that play a role in setting and determining cost. It may be wise now to become more political in your daily lives, participating in elections and voting. Know what ideologies your congressman or woman hold, and how that may affect the cost of acquiring education beyond high school. Also, be well informed of what is going on in your state government. What new law or policy is in effect that’ll determine what you’ll be paying when you decide to attend the college or university of your choice.