Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How high can you go?

There have been many stories in recent months about the rapidly rising tuition at America's public and private universities.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the price increases are again hitting public university students harder than their counterparts at private institutions.
For the fifth year in a row, the percentage increase in average published tuition and fees at public four-year colleges was higher than it was at private ones, according to the report, "Trends in College Pricing 2011." The report, released on Wednesday, examines annual changes in colleges' sticker prices, as well as the net prices students pay after grant aid and tax benefits are considered. A companion report, "Trends in Student Aid 2011," looks at the money that helps students meet those growing prices. (The pricing report looks at data through this academic year, while the student-aid report has information through 2010-11.)
The average price for tuition and fees at public four-year colleges was $8,244 for in-state students in 2011-12, up from $7,613 in 2010-11, an 8.3-percent increase. That percentage change drops to 7.0 percent if California—which had a 21-percent increase in tuition in that one-year period—is excluded.
Ah, yes, California. The Los Angeles Times takes a closer look at how sticker shock is hitting students in the Golden State
Even with steep hikes, the Cal State system's tuition and fees total $6,521, still below the $7,186 national average for similar master's degree campuses. UC's tuition and fees figure, about $13,200 this year, is well above the national average of $9,185 for doctorate-granting institutions, although UC leaders say it is on par with other top public colleges.

At California's community colleges, this year's 37% tuition jump was the steepest percentage increase in the nation, but actual tuition and fees remain the lowest — $1,119 compared to an average of $3,288 for two-year colleges in the rest of the country.

Meanwhile, the nation's private nonprofit four-year colleges raised tuition and fees 4.5% this year, to a national average of $28,500. With room and board, the price tag averaged $38,589, up 4.4% from last year.

Critics of college pricing have long complained that tuition rises much faster than inflation, which was 3.6% for the year ending in July, and that schools should try harder to rein in costs. In the last decade, the percentage growth has moderated somewhat at private schools, averaging 2.6% above inflation annually, but has risen faster than in recent decades at public four-year schools, to 5.6% annually above inflation.
Yes, government aid programs, including grants, are increasing, so the sky-rocketing tuition and associated fees (plus, where appropriate, room and board) might not be paid solely by the student. But there is little doubt that more students are delaying their entry into college, going part-time or relying more on loans to help them meet their financial obligations.

Not good. Not good at all.

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