Survey Finds College Costs Rising

Monday, October 16th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) — The price of a college degree continues to rise faster than inflation, with tuition and fees at public four-year colleges up an average 4.4 percent this fall, even more at private schools, a new survey has found. And loans provide a growing chunk of the extra money students need to pay for those degrees.

Average in-state tuition and fees at public, four-year schools is $3,510 per year — $148 more than last year, according to figures released Monday by the College Board. On-campus room and board now averages $4,960, up 5.1 percent.

At private four-year colleges, tuition and fees average $16,332, up 5.2 percent from last year. Room and board on campus is now $6,209, a 4.2 percent increase.

Only public two-year schools, chiefly community colleges, stayed below the current inflation rate — but barely. Tuition rose this year to $1,705, up 3.4 percent, the survey found.

Private two-year schools boosted tuition and fees to $7,458, a 7 percent rise.

This pattern follows an old, familiar trend, said Joni Finney, a policy analyst at the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education in San Jose, Calif. ``Colleges and universities have a very difficult time controlling their costs,'' she said.

``These institutions were underfunded in the early part of the '90s,'' Finney said. ''... But they've more than made up for lost ground.''

But Stanley Eikenberry, president of the American Council on Education, an umbrella group for higher education, said in a statement, ``Given the large, fixed costs of most campuses, in personnel and facilities especially, these numbers show institutions are working hard to hold the line on increases.''

The recent increases push past inflation. The Consumer Price Index rose 2.7 percent in 1999; the first eight months of this year, consumer prices rose at an annual rate of 3.5 percent. Last year, college tuition and fees rose less than 5 percent.

Despite the increases, college remains affordable and a good investment, said College Board President Gaston Caperton in a statement with the surveys. ``In both earning potential and learning potential, you cannot beat the value of a college education,'' the former West Virginia governor said.

The College Board's figures concern the costs for 6.4 million full-time undergraduates — 54 percent attending four-year public institutions, 27 percent at four-year private schools, 17 percent at two-year community colleges and 1 percent at private two-year schools.

A majority of students need grants or loans — or both — but their exact numbers are unknown, a College Board spokesman said.

Last school year, loans made up 59 percent of a record $68 billion in financial aid. A decade ago, loans made up just over 41 percent of student financial help.

The pool of money from federal, state and school sources last year was 4 percent greater than a year earlier, but 88 percent more than a decade before, taking inflation into account.

The New York-based College Board is a nonprofit organization that administers the SATs and promotes higher education.

It surveyed more than 3,000 schools to find out undergraduate charges for 2000-2001. The companion survey on financial aid, was based on federal, state and school statistics from 1999-2000. Current grant and loan figures are not available until the school year ends.


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