June 27, 2019
"Fund and Freeze" is trending in state higher education
To tackle higher education funding and rising college costs, state legislatures are now using state appropriations to incentivize tuition restraint

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust released the following statement addressing recent actions by state legislatures to use state appropriations to incentivize tuition restraint at public institutions of higher education.

Earlier this year, state lawmakers in Virginia and South Carolina allocated additional funding for public colleges and universities who agree to hold the line on in-state tuition increases. Legislatures in Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana,New Hampshire, and Vermont have also or are currently considering similar plans that would tie new state higher education investment to varying levels of tuition restraint or cost management efforts.

"Making college more affordable for students and families must be a shared responsibility between state policymakers and institutional leaders,” said Dr. James Toscano, president of Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust. “Unless both states and institutions do their part, it's the students and families who literally pay the price.”

State funding for public colleges and universities declined sharply during the Great Recession, and institutions made up lost revenue by shifting the cost burden to students and families in the form of higher prices. However, as state revenues continue to recover, many states have gone back to the business of restoring funding for public colleges and universities, though funding levels vary by state. According to the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University and the State Higher Education Executive Officers, state spending on higher education rose by 18.3%or $14 billion in the last five fiscal years.

“Even as state funding has steadily recovered, too many students and families still find themselves footing higher bills each year," Toscano added. “Now state lawmakers are getting smarter, ensuring that new state investments for public colleges and universities translate into cost savings for the students and families they represent. Although states’ ‘fund and freeze’ efforts are stopgaps to a larger systemic problem, they are a good first step on the way to more comprehensive and permanent reforms.”

State Action/Proposals

Massachusetts – The state Senate budget allocates an additional $63 million for public colleges and universities and requires a one-year tuition freeze at the University of Massachusetts. Budget negotiations are currently underway in Boston to iron out differences between the current House and Senate budgets.

Minnesota – Lawmakers in Minnesota – home to the nation’s only split legislature – allocated $150 million in new state funding for public higher education, mandated a 3 percent cap at the Minnesota State system, and requested a 3 percent cap at the University of Minnesota.​

Montana – The State Legislature allocated $24 million in new state appropriations to freeze tuition at the Montana University System for two years. The Montana Board of Regents approved the tuition freeze following the legislature’s approval of Governor Bullock’s budget proposal.

New Hampshire – While the budget has not yet been finalized, both the House and Senate proposals increase funding for higher education. Both budgets increase funding levels for the University System of New Hampshire from $81 million in by $85 million in 2020 and $88.5 million in 2021. The House and Senate budget proposals differ in their allocations for the Community College System of New Hampshire, with senators claiming their budget allows for an in-state tuition freeze at the community colleges and the university system.The conference committee has recommended that the legislature adopt with senate version with the legislative approval forthcoming.

South Carolina – The General Assembly allocated an additional $36 million for public colleges and universities who agree to freeze in-state tuition and mandatory fees for the 2019-2020 academic year, exempting increases necessary to cover state-mandated health insurance and pension costs. In response, Clemson University approved a 1 percent tuition increase and the University of South Carolina approved a 0.6 percent tuition increase, their lowest since 1998.

Vermont – The General Assembly allocated an additional $3 million for Vermont State Colleges ($2.5 million increase in base funding and $500,000 in one-time funds) after lawmakers struck a deal with university officials to roll back the planned 2.9 percent in-state tuition increase to 1 percent.

Virginia – The General Assembly allocated an additional $52.5 million for public colleges and universities who agree to freeze in-state,undergraduate tuition and fees for the 2019-2020 academic year. After the budget was approved, every state institution’s governing board voted in favor of a tuition freeze, with six institutions going beyond the scope of the legislature’s plan by extending the freeze to out-of-state undergraduates.

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