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College Board Survey: Tuition Growth Slower, But Outpaces Inflation

By Sam Dillon

Average college tuition grew more quickly than did overall inflation again this year, although the rate of increase slowed after a period of explosive growth, according to an annual survey released here today by the College Board.

Tuition at public universities was up on average by $365 or 7.1 percent this fall, after a year in which overall inflation totaled 4.7 percent. Private universities increased tuition by $1,190 or 5.9 percent. Two-year community colleges increased tuition on average by $112, or about 5.4 percent, the survey said.

And while various forms of student aid are available, the fastest-growing form was private student loans, the survey said.

In the last two years, public universities had raised tuition by 10 percent and 13 percent, and the slowing growth rates registered in this year’s survey were a relief to higher education leaders who have felt a public backlash over campus costs that are outstripping increases in the rest of the economy.

“I’m delighted to hear that there’s some moderation in the rate of growth, and I hope we can sustain that,” said David Ward, president of the American Council on Education, the nation’s largest association of universities and colleges. “There’s a deep and growing public anxiety about affordability, and we in higher education must be sensitive to it.”

Total expenses — including tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation and other expenses — now average $15,566 for an undergraduate student attending a public university in her own state, the survey said. Total expenses at private universities now average $31,916.

The survey of more than 3,000 post-secondary schools did not offer a comprehensive list of reasons for the tuition increases, although it reported that the prices of goods and services that universities purchase have risen rapidly in recent years. Among the fastest-growing costs have been employee health benefits, professional salaries and utilities, the survey said.

One reason tuition has been rising fast in public universities is that state legislatures across the nation have drastically reduced higher education appropriations to close state budget deficits.