Ian Jacobson couldn't be more excited about his freshman year at the University of Iowa, but his mom has other things on her mind: laundry, last-minute shopping and writing a big check.

"I can't imagine shelling out $23,000 in one check," Linda Jacobson said.

Unfortunately for Jacobson, Iowa upped its out-of-state tuition a whopping 16 percent this year.

"If he had gone to school last year I could've saved 16 percent," she said. "He was born a year too late."

But Iowa is far from alone with its higher price tag.

Public universities nationwide have made across-the-board tuition increases.

"For the fall of 2003, we have an 8 percent tuition increase," said Steve McLaughlin, dean of students at the University of Wisconsin, Parkside.

"We had a 10 percent tuition increase," said Mark Rosati of the University of Illinois, Chicago. "The reason is because of the state budget cuts due to the economic downturn."

For the most part, the price hike is steeper percentage-wise on the public side rather than the private. That's because public universities rely so heavily on state funding. And with state economies sagging, public universities are seeing their budgets slashed. Legally, states just aren't required to bankroll their schools of higher education.

"Twenty to 30 years ago you'd have at least about 50 percent of the operating funding come from the state, and now we're at about a third," McLaughlin said. "So the difference is made up in tuition revenue."

Some argue that’s at the expense of those who would be bound for college.

"Tuition is increasing faster than the funds to get them access," said Judith Flink of the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance.

Flink's federal committee concluded that over the next decade, more than 4 million qualified students, most of them low income, won't be able to afford a four-year university education, and that the U.S. workforce is at risk unless access to education improves.

Ian Jacobson has that access, and he promises to keep his nose in his books. And let mom deal with the bills.