In 1988, state legislatures gave their public colleges an average of $8,600 a student. Students contributed an additional $2,700 in tuition, which gets us to a total of $11,300. By 2013, states were kicking in just $6,100, while students were contributing $5,400; this gets us to a total of $11,500.
As far as students are concerned, public tuition has doubled. As far as public colleges are concerned, funding is flat.
At public colleges, then, the explanation for rising tuition prices isn’t spiraling costs. The costs are the same, but the burden of paying those costs has shifted from state taxpayers to students.