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Indiana Commission for Higher Education

Affordability Affordability

Ensuring that College is Affordable

Now more than ever, earning a college diploma has a direct impact on students’ future earning potential. Students need a college diploma to get a job that pays enough to support a middle-class lifestyle and provides opportunities for advancement. This is particularly important for students from low-income families who are seeking a better life. Yet the price of college has continued to rise at twice the rate of inflation and outpaces growth in most other costs, including energy, health care and pharmaceuticals.

Three primary factors contribute to these consistent increases in tuition:

  • Competition for labor is intense: Faculty and staff account for almost 80 percent of the general fund budget. To recruit and retain high-quality faculty, colleges have to provide competitive wages and benefits.
  • Demand is up: Over the past six years, Indiana has enrolled more than 65,000 additional students at the postsecondary level, primarily at the community college. Approximately 62 percent of Indiana’s high school graduating class will go to a two- or four-year college immediately (as compared to 56 percent nationally), and even more will enroll within five years of high school graduation.
  • State appropriations have not kept pace: Although the Indiana General Assembly has consistently increased funding for public higher education, the share of state tax support allocated to higher education has decreased over the past two decades.

Traditionally, paying for public higher education has been a shared responsibility between the state and students, but now the burden is shifting to the student. In the 1970s, students and their families nationwide — as well as in Indiana — paid about one-third of the cost of college; in 1995, they paid 40 percent; and in 2005, 50 percent. The average debt load for a student graduating from a four-year college is now $17,250.27

Indiana aspires to provide every qualified Hoosier high school graduate a high-quality postsecondary education regardless of financial need. With this aspiration in mind, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education has released a series of Affordability recommendations.

Students Perceive Cost of College as Barrier