The College Tuition Bubble May Be Bursting…Um, Yay?
CNBC.com News Editor
The recession has taken a huge toll on families — everything from job loss to shrinking family budgets — but here's a recession statistic parents can finally cheer about: College tuition may be near its peak.
One-third of universities expect tuition revenue to either decline or grow at a rate below inflation in fiscal 2013, according to Moody's annual tuition survey. Before the recession, roughly one in 10 universities expected such declines.
"The cumulative effects of years of depressed family income and net worth, as well as uncertain job prospects for many recent graduates, are combining to soften student market demand at current tuition prices," said Emily Schwarz, a Moody's analyst and the lead author of the report.
OK, here's the part where you expect parents to dig out their old pom-poms and make some noise: Universities, facing declining enrollment, aren't going to be able to keep raising tuition at current rates.
Universities said they expect to raise tuition by just 2.6 percent to 2.7 percent in the current fiscal year, down sharply from the past five years, when tuition increases averaged 6.7 percent.
"In addition to these economic pressures, tougher governmental scrutiny of higher education costs and disclosure practices is adding regulatory and political pressure to prevent tuition and revenue from rising at past rates," Schwarz said.
So, three cheers for the home team, right? Hip hip hooraaaaaaaay? Gimme an L … L! Gimme an O … O! Gimme a W …. W! What's it spell? Loooooooow tuition! Woo!
Um, hello? Anybody? Am I the only one holding pom-poms?
Wow, this is awkward.
I'm not sure if it's some sort of Stockholm syndrome,where parents have been held hostage by sky-high tuition for so long or sheer pragmatism, but the parents I spoke with never once reached for a pom-pom or uttered a word remotely close to "yay" over this news.
"I'm dubious that it's even true. Or, that it will be like health care: They'll find a way to give us less somewhere else," one colleague, the father of two 12-year-old girls, said.
Another colleague and dad of teen girls said tuition is still too high and rising more than inflation so there's nothing to get excited about.
There's also some serious concern for what it means for the quality of education.
"It doesn't make me cheer. It makes me concerned for the welfare of our higher education system," said Heidi Majerik, who has a six-year-old son. "Our state systems have been getting pinched with funding … If funding gets pinched, where does that leave us with the quality of our higher education system for my son?"
One Pittsburgh father of three summed it up this way: "College tuition is daunting regardless of the lower increase. They'd better get scholarships!"
So, the moral of the story is: Kids, keep practicing your math, football and cello – we're gonna need it!
I should probably take this cheerleading outfit off now, right?
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