Committee Expresses Concern About Continuing Rise in the Cost of a Quality College Education

October 3, 2002

“Next year, we will reauthorize the Higher Education Act,” said Chairman John Boehner. “As part of that process, we are conducting a comprehensive review of our student financial assistance programs to determine what is working and what needs to be fixed. Our goal is to determine how we can best ensure that every American has access to a quality postsecondary education. This hearing has provided the committee with important insights on one of the biggest hurdles to access – the increasing cost of higher education.”

According to the College Board, during the ten-year period ending in 2000-2001, average public four-year tuition and fees increased 40 percent and private four-year college tuition increased 33 percent after adjusting for inflation. In response, Congress has significantly increased its aid for postsecondary education and more students are receiving federal support than ever before. The maximum Pell Grant is at an historic high, having increased 33 percent since 1998. The SEOG program, which provides supplemental grant aid, is also at an all time high of $918 million. And the College Work Study program, which helps needy students earn while they learn, has been increased to $1.2 billion per year.

While highlighting for the committee the various factors that drive the cost of tuition – amount of state appropriations for public schools, salaries, technology investments, etc. — each of the witnesses expressed a commitment to working to keep college accessible and affordable to every American. As Dr. Richard M. Freeland, the President of Northeastern University in Boston, stated: “I regard access to quality higher education for young people from all walks of life as a central value of American democracy.”

Dr. C.D. Mote, Jr., the President of the University of Maryland, added, “Education leaders and policy-makers at the state and federal levels must do everything in their power to ensure that higher education, and the opportunity for a better life, is financially accessible to all potential students.”