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Average College Eduction costs in US

College tuition prices are up, no surprise. And to a lesser extent, so is total student aid.

But federal Pell Grant funding for low-income students declined for the first time in six years, and students borrowed more from private lenders last year than ever before.

Those are just a few of a wide range of findings related to the cost of attending college that were released Tuesday by the College Board, a non-profit whose members include more than 5,000 schools, colleges and education groups.

Published tuition and fee increases continued to slow, the report says :-

There's no escaping the fact that college prices are rising. According to recently released reports from the College Board, most students and their families can expect to pay, on average, from $108 to $1,398 more than last year for this year's tuition and fees, depending on the type of college.

But there is good news. There is more than $143 billion in financial aid available. And, despite all of these college price increases, a college education remains an affordable choice for most families.

Average College Prices 2008-09 But Did You Know That...
Private four-year $25,143 (up 5.9 percent from last year)

Public four-year $6,585 (up 6.4 percent from last year)
  • About 56 percent of students enrolled at four-year colleges or universities attend institutions that charge tuition and fees of less than $9,000 per year.
  • 38 percent of full-time students enrolled in public four-year colleges and universities attend institutions that charge tuition and fees between $3,000 and $6,000.
  • While private four-year institutions have a much wider range of tuition and fee charges, only about 9 percent of all students attend colleges with tuition and fees totaling $33,000 or higher per year.
Public two-year $2,402 (up 4.7 percent from last year)
  • 32 percent of all full-time students attend public two-year colleges.
Students will pay, on average, from $381 to $408 more than last year for this year's room and board, depending on the type of college.

The average surcharge for full-time out-of-state  students at public four-year institutions is $10,867.
  • More than $143 billion in financial aid is available to students and their families.
  • About two-thirds of all full-time undergraduate students receive grant aid. In 2008-09, estimated aid in the form of grants and tax benefits averaged about $2,300 per student at public two-year colleges, about $3,700 at public four-year colleges, and about $10,200 per student at private four-year colleges.

  • Public four-year university prices for in-state students rose 6.3%, to $5,836, vs. 7.1% last year, after two years of double-digit increases.
  • Private four-year university prices were up 5.9%, the same rate of increase as last year, to $22,218.
  • Public two-year college prices rose 4.1%, to $2,272, down from the 5.4% increase last year.
Average college costs, 2006-07
Average in-state tuition & fees Increase from last year 5-year increase (Adjusted for inflation) Average net price (after financial aid) Average per-year increase over past decade
4-year public $5,836 6.3% 35% $2,700 2.7%
4-year private $22,218 5.9% 11% $13,200 2.4%
2-year public $2,272 4.1% 23% Less than $100 N/A
Table Source: The College Board / Article Source: USA Today

4 year Private College
  • Tution & Fees
    • $20,980 (2005-06)
    • $7763 (2006-07)
  • Room & Board
    • $22218 (2005-06)
    • $8149 (2006-07)
4 year Public College
  • Tution & Fees -
    • $5492 (2005-06)
    • $5836 (2006-07)
  • Room & Board
    • $6623 (2005-06)
    • $6960 (2006-07)
Source: The College Board

The report cautions that pricing patterns vary by region and have grown "increasingly complex," in part because some colleges charge different amounts depending on what year a student enrolled or what they're majoring in.

Also, the average net prices that is, the amount students pay after financial aid is factored in are "significantly lower" than published prices, though they are increasing, too. But the report notes that financial aid averages conceal the wide range of aid awards; some students get a full ride, others pay the full amount. And federal tax benefits and a trend toward non-need-based state and institutional aid benefit middle- and upper-income students more than lower-income students, it says.

While private-university prices are on average higher, public four-year universities have struggled most with controlling the amount students end up paying. Their inflation-adjusted tuition increased 35% over the past five years, compared with 11% for private four-year universities. And net price increased even more dramatically at publics 69% in inflation-adjusted dollars over that period vs. 9% for privates.

Also, students at public universities on average take longer to graduate (6.2 years vs. 5.3 at private universities). That adds to the cost of attending college, both because of additional tuition charges and loss of potential income.

The report also notes that when related expenses are considered, the differences in the costs of attending two-year and four-year public institutions narrow. Published tuition charges at two-year schools represent 39% of the average four-year school, for example. But when room and board, books and supplies, and transportation are included, the cost of attending two-year college ($12,300) is 75% of the cost of attending a four-year public college ($16,400).

Pell Grants down :-

Student aid, including state, institutional and federal grants, increased 3.7% to $134.8 billion in 2005-06, compared with 3% the previous year, the report says. But funding for the Pell Grants, the federal government's main need-based aid program, was down from $13.1 billion in 2004-05 to $12.7 billion last year, and the average amount per recipient dropped $120, from $2,474 to $2,354. Last year, the maximum Pell Grant, $4,050, covered 33% of tuition at public four-year institutions; four years ago, it covered 42%.

The decline was no surprise; the report attributes it mostly to a technical change in the formula for eligibility.

Nevertheless, in light of intensifying concerns about access to college, the drop is "greatly disturbing," says David Ward, president of the American Council on Education, an umbrella group for colleges and universities.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, though, took colleges to task. "Parents and students must understand why costs are so high and what they are getting for their money," she said. She also said institutions and states must do more to increase need-based aid.

Rep. Howard McKeon, R-Calif., head of the House education committee, also took a swipe. Noting that federal student aid has nearly doubled in the past decade, he said, "No matter how much student aid rises from one year to the next, an equally dramatic spike in college costs follows."

Debt levels rising :-

Median debt levels of graduating students are "almost certain" to have increased in recent years, the report says, because neither grant aid nor family incomes have kept pace with cost hikes. The median student debt for bachelor's degree recipients in 2003-04, the latest year for which statistics are available, was $19,300. Median debt levels for graduates increased sharply between 1995-96 and 1999-2000, but 2003-04 graduates "were no more deeply in debt than those who had graduated four years earlier," the report says.

Federal loans remain the largest source of student loans. But the report says private loans are growing more common. Last year, they accounted for 20% of all such borrowing; a decade ago, it was about 4%.

That's "worrisome," says Robert Shireman of the non-profit Project on Student Debt, because private loans are riskier. "It's more important than ever to ensure that student loans help, rather than hurt, responsible borrowers."


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