It’s no secret. College tuition prices keep rising. In some recent articles (What drives up the rising cost of college tuition? and Addressing the rising cost of tuition) I discussed the problem in detail, asking the question, “Will it ever end?” In another article on this site (What will the cost of tuition be by the time our children enter college?) we read, “Experts are saying that by 2021 tuition costs for a public institution could be $95,000 for an undergraduate degree.  A private college could run towards $240,000.”

The latest news indicates colleges and state governments are finally listening to parents and students. They realize that when costs rise to an amount that the consumer can’t or won’t pay it’s time to respond and take action. Not only are consumers concerned about costs rising, but they are concerned about the quality of education they receive at these escalated prices.

State governments respond

During Governor Rick Perry’s State of the State Address last week, he acknowledged that something must be done to curtail these high tuition increases. The Ft. Worth Star Telegram reported:

Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday outlined a plan as part of his State of the State address that is challenging public universities to make that a reality. He says the key to making a university diploma more financially attainable is having public universities freeze tuition. He further challenged public universities to try to develop a bachelor’s degree at a cost of $10,000, including books. It’s time for “a bold Texas-style solution to this challenge, that I’m sure the brightest minds in our universities can devise,” Perry said.

In another article from the Utah Daily Herald, they outlined the changes coming through their own state government:

Some of the rumblings are already shaking the Utah Legislature this session:

• Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, inveighed against state funding for impractical “degrees to nowhere,” and wants more emphasis on math, science and technology tracks.

• Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo, introduced HB 485 to ban the granting of tenure to professors at state colleges and universities. Critics have long said that tenure deprives some professors of motivation and responsibility.

• Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Odgen, is backing SJR 9, which would amend the state constitution to give the governor control over both public schools and higher education. That could be seen as expressing general frustration with Utah’s academic establishment.

Apparently the voices of the over-charged and under-educated masses are finally being heard.

Colleges respond

At least one public university system already had decided to freeze tuition. The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents last year voted to freeze tuition rates for the 2011-12 academic year at 11 campuses, including the flagship university, said Jason D. Cook, spokesman for the system.

Inside Higher Education reported today about some more changes taking affect at other colleges:

The University of the South on Wednesday announced that it is cutting total student charges (tuition, fees and room and board) by 10 percent — one of the more dramatic shifts in tuition policy announced by a competitive private college in recent years.

Middlebury College last year set a voluntary ceiling on tuition increases: 1 percent on top of any change in the Consumer Price Index. (While McCardell is a former Middlebury president, he was already retired from the position when the institution made that move.)

Princeton University in January announced an unusually small tuition increase (1 percent) for next year.

Changing times

It appears that colleges can no longer charge high tuition without facing the consequences of lower enrollment. Applicants are seeking other options and finding ways to save on college tuition. Many are opting to go the community college route. Still others are making the choice to attend less expensive state colleges in lieu of high-priced private universities.

We saw the same thing happen when gas prices skyrocketed. People stopped buying gas guzzling cars and opted for the hybrids. The consumer will always drive the marketability of any product; and whether colleges admit it or not, their customers are not happy.

What do you think about these changes? Will it affect the quality of education? Is education at any cost valuable?

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