College Costs Continue To Rise

By Staff
October 21, 2009

Not surprisingly, college tuitions are up again this year, although increased student aid is helping keep the cost in check.

The Washington Post reports that the latest figures about the cost of higher education come from the College Board, which released its annual studies on tuition and financial aid trends this week. Tuition and fees are now an average of $26,273 at private colleges and $7,020 at public colleges for in-state residents. The rate of increase was higher for public colleges at 6.5 percent, while at private colleges the rate increased 4.4 percent.

Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education, noted that given state cutbacks and dwindling endowment funds, higher tuition "comes as no surprise." She told The Post that she is concerned that "we may soon face a period where significant tuition increases may be necessary to counterbalance the current fiscal instability."

But Sandy Baum, a College Board analyst who was quoted in U.S. News & World Report, acknowledged that even though the increases are understandable, "families are facing these prices with incomes that are not making any progress at all."

The College Board also pointed out that although tuition has increased, most students do not pay the full price. On the average, those enrolled at private colleges received $14,400 in grant aid and tax benefits this year, and public college students received about $5,400 in grant aid. Therefore, the "net price" of a college education, according to College Board officials, is not much higher than it was 10 or 15 years ago.

Moreover, the College Board found that financial assistance is increasing. On the average, undergraduates received $10,185 in grants and loans during the 2008-9 academic year, while a decade ago the average was $6,688.

The cost of room and board has also risen significantly. U.S. News notes that there was a 6 percent increase in the average cost of dorm and cafeteria contracts, even though the consumer price index estimates that energy and food costs are 1.3 percent lower than last fall.

Joseph Spina, executive director of the National Association of College and University Food Services, told U.S. News that his members are being told by college administrators to send extra money to support classes. "Food service on campus is often asked to help with the budget situation to make sure this a return," he said.

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