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Curbing College Costs: Highlighting State and Institutional Efforts to Help Keep College within Reach

The College Board this week released a pair of reports on trends in student aid and college costs. According to the reports, average college tuition increased at the lowest rate in more than a decade – welcome news in these times of soaring student debt. However, more must be done to help students earn a degree at a more affordable price. House Education and the Workforce Committee Republicans know states and schools have a shared responsibility to keep college within reach for more students – and fortunately, a growing number are rising to the challenge.

Schools in Georgia and Connecticut are curbing costs by streamlining popular academic programs and cutting those that are no longer in demand. Louisiana, Florida, and North Carolina are helping lower the tuition burden by making it easier for students to transfer credits between public institutions. Colleges in several states, including Virginia and Tennessee, recently announced tuition reductions, and institutions nationwide are incorporating online coursework to help students graduate faster with less debt.

In committee hearings held during the 112th Congress, state and institution leaders highlighted cost-saving initiatives that are working for students, taxpayers, and colleges – initiatives that, if implemented in more states and schools, could help usher in a new trend of more affordable higher education. Take a moment to review key examples below: 

Institutional Efforts to Improve Cost Efficiency and Lower Tuition
  • Accelerated Degree Programs and Online Coursework: A growing number of colleges are offering accelerated degree programs and online education options to help students save on tuition by graduating early.
  • Streamlining Operational Costs: Schools in Colorado and other states have taken steps to reduce costs by consolidating duplicative administrative services, decentralizing internal revenue structures, increasing the number of courses taught by professors, and choosing to hire additional adjunct faculty instead of tenured professors.

State-Led Efforts to Curb Costs

  • Prior Learning Assessments: Offered by colleges in states such as New York and New Jersey, these tests determine whether the knowledge a student has obtained from previous education or work experience merits college credit, helping students avoid paying for courses they don’t need. 
  • Comprehensive Articulation Agreements: These agreements make it easier to transfer academic credits between public institutions in the same state, allowing students to lower their tuition bill by taking courses at a less expensive community college and complete their degree program at a public four-year institution. Louisina estimates that students who take advantage of the state's comprehensive articulation agreement save over $10,000 on the cost of a Bachelor of Arts degree.
  • “Pay for Performance” Funding Structures: States like Indiana and Tennessee that use performance funding models set aside a certain percentage of funds for higher education programs with the best retention, completion, and placement rates. These models have increased accountability and encouraged institutions to help students graduate sooner.

House Education and the Workforce Committee Republicans understand that efforts to create an affordable higher education system cannot come solely from Washington. States and institutions can lead the charge to reduce costs and help more Americans realize the dream of a college degree.

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