The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Top Stories

November 2, 2012

Students feel burden of rising college costs

JOPLIN, Mo. — Eli Moran remembers paying for his first semester at Missouri Southern State University entirely out of his pocket.

“That sucked,” said Moran, a freshman majoring in psychology, of the $3,200 price tag for his tuition and books. “It killed me because I had bills, too. I had to do it, but I didn’t really get much luxury. I had to cut back on expenses.”

Moran, of Joplin, is not the only student to have struggled with the costs of college. The sticker price of in-state tuition at four-year public universities across the country climbed about $400 this fall, an increase of nearly 5 percent that brought the average to $8,655.

The latest annual figures from the College Board show only about one-third of full-time students pay that published price. The estimated net price — what students pay on average after accounting for grants and tax credits — remains considerably lower than the list price: about $2,910 for tuition at public four-year universities.

But after several years when a wave of student aid from Washington held net prices mostly in check, real costs for students have now jumped two straight years.

Officials at both Missouri Southern State University and Pittsburg (Kan.) State University say they have noticed that sticker price going up locally — and they’re not sure it’s likely to change soon.

At MSSU, an in-state student taking 12 hours per semester pays $2,033 in tuition. The university has increased tuition by roughly $26.50 per credit hour over the past two years.

“The trends are going to be (that costs of) higher education are going up,” said MSSU’s Darren Fullerton, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management. “State economies are getting better, but again, the demands on the state budget are getting greater, and you’re seeing rising costs in a number of areas. So unfortunately, I don’t see much of a reversal in fortune for higher education.”

Fullerton said most MSSU students are eligible for state and federal grants, and other types of financial aid, but most also work outside of school to support themselves.

“I think students as a whole would tell you that they are struggling,” he said.

Bill Ivy, associate vice president of enrollment management and student success at PSU, said costs have “definitely” gone up in recent years. An undergraduate paying in-state rates spends $2,193 this fall, about $127 more than last year.

Ivy said that in the past five years, the university has made more scholarships available, but students are also taking out more loans than in previous years. The increases in student costs, he said, help compensate for rises in the university’s fixed costs, such as health insurance and utilities, as well as a leveling off or decrease in state funding.

“I don’t see a lot of indication that that would change,” he said. “I don’t know that we can count on significant increases in state support for the general programs.”

The report largely blames state cuts for rising tuition. According to the College Board — a not-for-profit membership group that promotes college access and owns the SAT exam — state funding per student to higher education has now declined four straight years, and is down 26 percent over the past five years.

Moran, the MSSU student, said he became eligible for a federal grant that covers his tuition for the current semester, decreasing his out-of-pocket expenses to about $400 for books. He said that if he hadn’t gotten that aid, he could not have returned for his second semester.

Jarrett Epperson, an MSSU sophomore from Webb City, said scholarships and grants pay for most of his tuition. But he would not be able to afford college without that help, he said.

“If I didn’t have the government paying for it, I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “As of right now, I’m in a good situation, but I know other people might not get as much.”

Joshua King, a first-semester MSSU student from Joplin, echoed those sentiments. Federal grants cover most of his tuition, and he has taken out a loan to cover the rest. He said he would like to see higher education receive more financial support from its funding sources, including the state government.

The rising costs of college are also a political hot topic, with President Barack Obama boasting that the broad expansion of federal student aid during his term has helped cushion the blow from sharp funding cuts from the states. His Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, argues increased aid from Washington has encouraged colleges to charge more.

Both candidates for Missouri governor, incumbent Jay Nixon and his challenger, Dave Spence, have focused their campaigns on education.

Nixon has heralded the actions he’s taken over the past four years to address higher education costs. He has expanded the A+ Schools program, which provides participants with two years of free tuition at in-state community colleges, and launched initiatives that help colleges and universities train students for careers in specific fields, such as health care.

In a statement emailed to the Globe, Nixon said he would continue to pursue those programs if he is re-elected Tuesday.

“Every student in Missouri deserves the opportunity to get an affordable education that prepares them for a rewarding career in a high-demand field,” he said.

On his campaign website, Spence said, among other things, that the state should work with trade schools and community colleges to broaden options for students who want to begin their careers without attending traditional four-year schools.

“A Spence administration would make higher education funding a budgetary priority, driving down the cost of higher education,” he said through a statement released to the Globe.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Student lament

“If I didn’t have financial aid, I wouldn’t be able to go to school,” said Josh King, a first-semester student at Missouri Southern State University. “I don’t make any reasonable amount of money to afford to go to school.”

 

1
Text Only
Top Stories
  • r071114redoak2.jpg Red Oak II: Lowell Davis’ ‘dream, art, love’ and final resting place

    The collection of buildings would become a town (though he didn’t intend for it to, and it has never been officially recognized either by the U.S. Postal Service or the state of Missouri).

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Anti-landfill group seeks grand jury probe

    As more than 200 people filed into Riverton High School on Sunday to attend an anti-landfill group meeting, many stopped to sign a petition asking the Cherokee County District Court to summon a grand jury to investigate how land was acquired by the city of Galena for a proposed landfill.

    July 27, 2014

  • Money clouds farm fight

    For much of the summer, while the campaign surrounding “right to farm” has been focused on its impact on “small, family farmers,” the bulk of the money pouring into the fight has come from big agriculture interests.

    July 26, 2014

  • r072514schoolhouse3.jpg VIDEO: Full of history, one-room schools focus of preservation by local groups

    The old Kings Prairie school sits on a narrow Barry County farm road, surrounded by quiet fields and farmland.

    July 25, 2014 6 Photos 1 Slideshow

  • 072814_jd anderson.jpg VIDEO: Noel strongman advances on talent show

    The past week has been busier than normal for Noel resident J.D. Anderson. Members of the production crew for NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” told him they have shot more footage of him than of other contestants for the next episode. “They said I have the busiest schedule of anyone this week,” Anderson told the Globe in a phone interview Friday. “There’s so many fun things you can do with B-roll as a strongman.”

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • r072314girlgunclub3.jpg Women's league offers practice, social opportunities for gun owners

    The objective for some is to improve their skills for target or competitive shooting, the league's website says. Others, while wanting to improve their skills, also are interested in aspects of self-defense.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • r072414trainwreck2.jpg Train crash a century ago among area’s worst disasters

    Burk Johnson had been threshing wheat near Joplin when his newlywed son and daughter-in-law picked him up and took him to Joplin’s Union Depot to catch the evening train home to Neosho.

    July 26, 2014 4 Photos

  • 072614 Faith 2.jpg Rich Brown: McDonald County Children's choir combines music with a gospel ministry

    The McDonald County Children's Choir may entertain a lot of people, but the hope is that it will bless even more through its ministry, according to choir director Amber Nelson.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Appellate court upholds class-action status for Picher residents

    An appellate court upheld a 2013 ruling on Thursday that a class-action lawsuit brought by former residents of Picher, Oklahoma, against a Tulsa-based appraisal firm involved with the buyout of property in the city can proceed.

    July 25, 2014

  • 1717 Marketplace developer faces more federal charges

    The developer of 1717 Marketplace in Joplin has been indicted with more bankruptcy fraud charges, in addition to those leveled against him last year for a series of bank fraud and wire fraud schemes that totaled more than $3.3 million in losses.

    July 25, 2014