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Report gives state 'F' for affordable education

MONTGOMERY (AP) — A report from the Alabama Commission on Higher Education gives the state a failing grade for the affordability of its colleges and universities.

The report, presented to the commission Friday, follows a national study that gave Alabama an "F" — along with 42 other states — in putting the price of a college education increasingly beyond the reach of many students.

"Alabama has lost considerable ground in making higher education affordable," said Elizabeth French, director of Institutional Effectiveness and Planning for ACHE.

She presented the report to the agency.

Because of slow growth in the state education budget and a diversion of money to K-12 schools, Alabama's public colleges and universities began imposing double-digit tuition increases in the mid-1990s, The Huntsville Times reported Monday.

In the past two years, tuition at Auburn University and The University of Alabama has increased by more than $1,000 a year.

A report in September from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education found affordability to be a national problem, with Alabama among 43 states getting an "F" in that category.

The San Jose, Calif.-based center is an independent and nonpartisan group that publishes its Measuring Up report every two years.

French, in Friday's report, said families in Alabama must devote a larger share of income to tuition than those in the best performing states.

For low- and middle-income students in community college, net education costs represent 36 percent of their family's annual income. For four-year public schools, that rises to 39 percent.

Only about 20 percent of Alabamians hold bachelor's degrees, but the report said Alabama has shown a high level of improvement in this area.

The report also cites some other positive points. In the past 12 years, the state has narrowed the gap between whites and nonwhites receiving bachelor's degrees. And a large percentage of first-year students at four-year schools return for their second year.

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Information from: The Huntsville Times, www.al.com/hsvtimes/hsv.html

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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