News Column

Tuition Rises 8% at Public Colleges

Oct. 26, 2011

Mary Beth Marklein


Tuition and fees at America's public colleges rose more than 8 percent this year as a weakened economy and severe cuts in state funding took their toll, a report out today says.

Public four-year universities charged residents an average $8,244 per academic year, up 8.3 percent from last year, while public two-year schools charged an average $2,963, up 8.7 percent, says the report by the nonprofit College Board. About 80 percent of the nation's undergraduates attend public institutions.

That increase is more than double the inflation rate of 3.6 percent between July 2010 and July 2011. Family earnings dropped across all income levels. And state funding per student declined by 4 percent in 2010, the latest year available, and 23 percent over the past decade, the report says.

Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education, called the findings "sadly familiar," and said the drop in state support was particularly troubling. "It has become all too common for state legislatures to dip into the pockets of students and families to balance state budgets," she says.

The tuition and fee increase is not the worst of the decade -- that occurred in 2004, when sticker prices rose 11 percent beyond inflation from the previous year.

The report says there may be some good news: a rise in federal student aid -- including tax credits and deductions -- is blunting the impact for most families. "At a time when students and families are ill-equipped to manage additional expenses, student financial aid is more important than ever," report author Sandy Baum says.

Net price -- the published price minus grants and tax breaks -- at public four-year colleges averaged $2,490, the report found.

About two-thirds of undergraduates receive grant aid, which averaged $6,539 last year. Average federal loans averaged $4,907. Borrowing by students and parents increased about 2 percent from 2009-10 to 2010-11.

Borrowing from private sources declined for the third straight year. In Denver today, President Obama will announce a plan through which students can consolidate their debt and reduce their interest rates. The plan also will allow borrowers to cap student loan payments at 10 percent of discretionary income.

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2011

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