An announcement this morning was probably welcome news for students at the University of Rhode Island: the college is freezing tuition for the 2013-14 school year, keeping the cost at $10,878 for in-state residents and $26,444 for out-of-staters. The decision is a victory for Governor Chafee, who’s proposed a $6 million increase in funding for state colleges but asked their presidents to freeze tuition as the quid pro quo.
URI’s financial documents show the school is taking much more money from students than it was a decade ago – $140 million more annually as of 2012. State lawmakers often get blamed for that, which has some validity: the state’s appropriation to URI has dropped by $26 million over the same period. Put another way, taxpayer dollars matched 84% of URI’s net student fees in 2002 but only 24% in 2012. Here’s a chart:
That said, it’s not an open-and-shut case that the General Assembly is totally to blame for the skyrocketing cost of attending URI – the increase in net student fees is more than five times larger than the decrease in the state appropriation, and the largest year-over-year hike was actually back in 2004, when net revenue from student fees jumped 17% even as the taxpayer subsidy stayed basically flat.
Update: A reader points out that the direct state appropriation to URI doesn’t reflect the university’s entire taxpayer subsidy because it excludes Rhode Island Capital Plan Funds and state-contributed capital. With those included, the state’s total appropriation to URI fell from $108 million in 2002 to $93 million in 2012, for a smaller cut of 14%, according to the school’s annual audits.