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State Budget Squeeze Pushes Students Deeper Into Debt

While many state economies have bounced back from the global financial crisis, public funding for higher education has yet to recover from deep budget cuts since 2008, according to a report Wednesday from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The result, say the authors, is that students and public colleges and universities continued shoulder a bigger share of the financial burden for their higher education in the latest academic year.

As of the 2013 school year, the latest data available, some 59 percent of students graduating from a public 4-year institution had student loans, up from 55 percent in 2008. The average loan amount rose by 16 percent – or about $3,600.

Overall state spending for higher education was up just 1 percent in 2013 and an estimated 3.7 percent in 2014, according to a separate report from the National Association of State Budget Officers. That report found that much of the recent growth has been paid with higher tuition and other fees—not from general revenues.

As states continue to rebuild their funding for public higher education, many were able to hold off on tuition hikes this year, the CBPP found. But 13 states made further funding cuts in the past year.

And after adjusting for inflation, all but three states—Alaska, North Dakota, and Wyoming—spent less money per student in the latest academic year than they did before the recession. The spending per student was 20 percent, or $1,805, less than in 2008. In Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina, spending is down by more than 35 percent. In Arizona and Louisiana, spending is down by more than 40 percent, according to the CBPP.

Can we have debt-free college for all? 4:46

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