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State budget writers urged to protect college access

In The Chronicle of Higher Educations Jan. 21 edition, Michael Arnone reports that the National Center for Public Policy in Higher Education is urging governors and state lawmakers nationwide to take emergency measures. According to the group, high tuition and poor state funding of colleges denied at least 250,000 prospects access to college in the 2003-04 fiscal year, and the problem could worsen if state decision-makers dont take action.
In The Chronicle of Higher Education's Jan. 21 edition, Michael Arnone reports that the National Center for Public Policy in Higher Education is urging governors and state lawmakers nationwide to take “emergency measures.” According to the group, high tuition and poor state funding of colleges denied at least 250,000 prospects access to college in the 2003-04 fiscal year, and the problem could worsen if state decision-makers don't take action.

In a two-page letter sent to college officials, governors and state legislators, the group recommends that colleges provide affordable access to all eligible students. They also suggest that lawmakers avoid reducing higher-education spending more than cuts for other state agencies. They recommend that institutions that primarily serve low- and middle-income students should be safe from cuts and have their tuition rates temporarily frozen. State-based financial-aid programs should receive at least level funds.

In addition, the group says tuition at public research universities should increase in proportion to the state's ability to increase financial aid. They suggest that states should create consistent financial-aid policies.

The group's statement says states that increase college spending in 2004-05 should aim the funds at institutions with growing enrollments, rather than spreading the extra money among all programs. Tuition hikes should not exceed each state's rate of growth in family income, according to the statement.

For the long term, the group recommends that each state strive for efficiency and guarantee that all qualified community-college students can transfer to four-year colleges. Lawmakers should set goals to make access to college more affordable.