Dear student: your fall tuition just went up.

SmartMoney.com, published by the Wall Street Journal, just posted a report that almost twenty states are raising tuition at public universities. For the upcoming fall semester. As of now.

College teeThe background:  prospective college students received acceptance and financial aid letters months ago — during the winter if they applied via early decision or acceptance, around April 1st if they applied via regular decision — and the students had to make a decision, commit to a school, and send a deposit check by May 1st. Then, one would hope, relax.

Returning college students also would have received their financial aid letters / fall tuition notice in the spring.

Since then, many state budgets have continued to worsen; declines are attributed to lower tax revenues, less than anticipated lottery earnings, and less federal funding.

Information on these cuts to the state universities is just now trickling down to the university students.

Still more families won’t find out about changes to tuition and financial aid packages until the end of the summer or even after the semester begins — what experts say is the longest delay ever. “This will create real hardship for these students and may impact directly on their ability to enroll this fall,” says Tom Horgan, president of the New Hampshire College and University Council.

How much more will the tuition cost, you ask? It varies from state to state, but look at California:

This month, California’s four-year colleges are seeking to increase tuition by up to 12%, on top of an 8% to 10% increase that was announced earlier this year.

While some changes affect the tuition cost, in some states these budget cuts are being applied to grants that were promised in those spring financial aid letters. New Hampshire cut all state grants in June. Georgia and Illinois scaled back already-promised grants.

Meanwhile, for students and families who are starting the process of shopping for colleges or saving for tuition, the cautionary tale seems clear: for the foreseeable future, public college tuition prices and financial aid promises may be unreliable.

Thanks to @FAFSAHelp for the heads-up.

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