Rising Cost of College Tuition and the Effect on College Completion Rates

To offset costs of post-secondary public education, students apply for financial assistance through programs like financial aid, which include grants, scholarships, work-study, and student loans. Moreover, students supplement this aid, or students that do not qualify for aid rely on employment income. To promote access to higher education, and to increase completion rates colleges and universities rely on state policies to establish tuition rates and to provide assistance to students to make college more affordable. Traditionally, the colleges were not held to any form of accountability; however, increases in funding to colleges drew public scrutiny on state governments and on the funding to education, particularly higher education. Education reform required colleges to report on outcomes in exchange for funding of student-focused expenditures. To determine the impact of select policies on completion rates we compiled an extensive literature review of performance-based aid to colleges; need-based and merit-based aid to students; tuition freezes, caps, and price guarantees; and subsidized and unsubsidized loans. As with similar studies on completion rates, this study uses a nonexperimental quantitative analysis of secondary data to synthesize findings of the effect tuition increases has on college student completion rates of underrepresents student populations in 2-year and 4-year public colleges and universities focusing on institutions serving the greater Los Angeles area.