Study Shows 'Net Cost' of College Has Decreased

The net tuition cost for the average Michigan public university student decreased over a recent five-year period, according to a study issued Tuesday by the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan.

Results show that increases in scholarships, grants and tuition tax credits have more than outpaced rising tuition rates after inflationary adjustments. This means that students, on average, paid a smaller percentage of the total “sticker price” for tuition and mandatory fees in fiscal year 2003 than they did in 1998.

At Northern Michigan University, for example, the annual tuition rate for resident undergraduates increased by $1,358 over the five-year span. But the increase was offset by a combination of institutional aid, state aid, federal aid and federal tax credits that rose by an even greater amount – $1,411.

“This study confirms that it’s important to look at both numbers,” said NMU President Les Wong. “Some might assume college is out of reach because they only see reports of tuition going up. They may not realize that financial aid is compensating for that by growing at a similar or even more accelerated rate. Higher education is a significant investment, and Northern is committed to ensuring that it remains accessible to those with the greatest need. We have put more university resources into financial aid and scholarship programs every year, even when we were cutting other budgets across campus.”

NMU awarded an average of $556 in institutional aid per fiscal-year equated student in 1998. Five years later, the figure climbed to $889, which represents a 60 percent increase.

The Presidents Council report was patterned after a study done for USA Today and compiled by Hank Prince, a former Michigan House Fiscal Agency associate director.

Prince found that the net cost of a college education was 45 percent of the “sticker price” in fiscal year 2003, compared with 60 percent in 1998.

“This study shows financial aid from all sources is a significant factor in reducing the cost and increasing the affordability of a college education in Michigan,” said Mike Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council. “Institutional aid is a significant but overlooked component of the total cost of higher education. Political involvement, in the form of tuition caps, makes it harder for universities to provide university resources to students, which may result in higher net tuition costs for many students.”

The Presidents Council is a nonprofit higher education association based in Lansing . It serves Michigan ’s 15 public universities. For more information on the study, visit and follow links to the report.



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Updated: November 17, 2004