Price of Service Cuts: Drowning in Debt: Budget Cuts Raise Cost of College

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center is telling the stories of Pennsylvanians impacted by five years of state service cuts in a new series called the Price of Service Cuts.

In today's installment, we take a look at funding cuts to higher education and how that is helping to make college even more unaffordable for many Pennsylvanians.

Brittany graduated from Shippensburg University last year with $60,000 in student loans. She is thankful, however, because her communications degree did land her a job in New York where she commutes every day from Bucks County. Others are not so fortunate. Zachary invested in a five-year architecture/landscape program at Pennsylvania State University, and it has yet to pay off. After graduating, Zachary settled for a manual-labor landscaping job that has since ended. He is eager to work and has a career of academic achievement but simply cannot find a job.[1]

These stories are not unique. Today, many young graduates are left holding a diploma but not a job after pouring time and money into a college education. As a result, more graduates are defaulting on their student loan payments each year.

At a time when parents and students are burdened with the cost of an increasingly expensive college education, the state budget cut funding to public institutions – making the situation even worse – as institutions are increasing their tuition. If Zachary were returning for another year, he would be paying the in-state tuition fee (not including housing, food, or books) of $15,124, which is $724 higher than last year.

State support of higher education has been cut dramatically in the past few years. Since the start of the recession in 2007-08, state funding for community colleges has been cut by 10%, the State System of Higher Education schools by 25%, and the state-related universities (Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln) have seen their funding cut 29%.

State schools are raising the price of tuition as a result of the lost revenue, and Pennsylvania families are paying the price. Behind the mortgage, the cost of college is often a family’s largest investment, and it is becoming increasingly unaffordable.

[1] Jeff Gammage, “Debt soaring with tuition,” Philadelphia Inquirer, September 18, 2011,


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