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Private College Tuition Increase Is Lowest In Years

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
June 30, 2009

A new survey indicates that tuition and fees at private colleges will rise an average of 4.3 percent this coming year--the smallest increase in 37 years.

The National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, which conducted a survey that included 350 private, non-profit colleges and universities, noted that the increase is lower than the average 6 percent over the last ten years. The association pointed out that the lower rate indicates that institutions are trying to restrain costs as families struggle to make ends meet during the recession.

"To an unprecedented degree, students and families are concerned about affording the college of their choice," said NAICU President David L. Warren. "Private colleges are committed to maintaining access for students from all backgrounds--especially in tough times.

"Freezes and cuts in other campus budget areas--construction and renovation, salaries and benefits, and travel and other staff expenses, to name a few--have allowed institutions to use those savings to temper tuition increases and keep student aid available."

But John Isaacson, who works for a Boston-based headhunting firm which specializes in higher education, warned that higher tuition increases may take place within the next two years as schools dip into their shrunken endowments more. Higher tuition "doesn't look good politically, but it raises a lot of money," he noted in an interview with Bloomberg.com.

Isaacson remarked that efforts by colleges and universities to cut costs this year--by freezing salaries, delaying construction and tightening spending--are "low-hanging fruit," Isaacson said. "The next phase is harder," he noted, and may include much larger tuition increases.

Notably, the NAICU survey did not include costs for room and board. According to the College Board, which administers the SAT, tuition and fees are only about two-thirds of the cost for students in private four-year colleges.

But for the first time, NAICU included data about student aid in its survey, and noted that private colleges increased student-aid budgets by an average of 9 percent for 2009-10.

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