Study Warns Pennsylvania Ranks 49 out of 50 in College Affordability

High school students in Pennsylvania face a tough future as the state ranks 49 (out of 50, of course) in terms of college affordability. That is to say that colleges and universities in the Keystone state cost more for local residents than any in other state; except for New Hampshire, which ranks dead last.

Alaska, on the other hand, ranks best, according to a study from the Institute for Research on Higher Education at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.

Joni Finney is a professor at, and the director of, the Institute. She says that college affordability was expected to improve as the recession ended but that is simply not the case.

“We’ve seen this trend for a long time throughout the 2000s. We think its time for a state-by-state and national conversation about how we’re going to provide opportunity for middle- and low-income families to go to higher education.”

Finney points out that several factors contribute to this phenomenon.  For one, college tuition has steadily increased since 2007. Of course, this is largely the case in many states.  She also notes, however, that Pennsylvania already has a more expensive public school system than most other states.  In fact, when compared with other states, the study ranked Pennsylvania’s public two-year colleges and four-year nondoctoral university affordability as 36 and 47, respectively.

Finney advises that these institutions are the “the real workhorses for low- and middle-income Americans [but, in the state of Pennsylvania] those institutions have been priced nearly out of reach for many families.”

And yes, the state has increased funding for need-based financial aid, but that does not seem to be keeping pace with tuition hikes. As such, Finney warns that many students are simply not enrolling in post-secondary education—and that, of course, is quite problematic.

She speaks about these students: “Pennsylvania needs them to enroll because no state can make their workforce projections in terms of an educated population without enrolling more students form the low- and middle-income families.”

At the end of the day, only about 40 percent of state residents between the ages of 25 and 64 have earned an associates degree (or higher).  Finney says that means the state certainly cannot be competitive in the global economy.