College Board: Tuition growth slowing at public colleges

October 23, 2013

The spike in tuition and fees for public colleges after the 2008 financial crisis has given way to slower growth, with lower price increases this year than in any of the previous four years, according to a national survey.

The College Board reported Wednesday that average in-state tuition and fees for public four-year colleges and universities is $8,893 this school year, up 0.9 percent from the previous year, in inflation-adjusted dollars. The last time the price increase was that low was in the 2008-09 school year.

In 2009-10, as a national economic swoon led to plunging tax revenue, states increased tuition and fees for their four-year schools by 9.5 percent. Since then, the increases have tapered off.

But the College Board’s survey found that the net price — what students at public four-year colleges pay in tuition and fees after subtracting grant aid — rose by a greater percentage than the published price. The net price for the average in-state student rose about 2.3 percent, to $3,120, after accounting for inflation, the data showed.

“This year’s slowing of the price spiral does not mean that college is suddenly more affordable, that concerns about student debt will be set aside, or that low- and ­moderate-income students will no longer face financial hurdles as they pursue their educational ambitions,” said Sandy Baum, a scholar at George Washington University and the Urban Institute who was a co-author of the report. “But it is good news, and we hope it will allow more focus on helping students to access the available financial aid and to enroll and succeed in college.”

While tuition prices have leveled some the past five years, when adjusted for inflation, private colleges cost nearly triple what they did 30 years ago, and public costs have quadrupled.

The College Board is a non­profit organization based in New York.

For private, nonprofit four-year colleges, published tuition and fees this school year averaged $30,094. That was up 1.8 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars from the previous year. The net price for those schools, after financial aid, was estimated at $12,460, up 4.4 percent from 2012-13.

When room and board are added, the survey found, the average published prices this year are $18,391 for public four-year schools and $40,917 for private schools.

The survey also compared ­prices of state flagship universities.

The University of Maryland at College Park, with in-state tuition and fees of $9,161, had an annual increase consistent with the national average for public universities: 0.9 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars. The University of Virginia, priced in-state at $12,458, had a larger increase: 1.8 percent.

Over the past five years, the survey showed, the in-state price at U-Md. has risen 7.8 percent. That was the third-lowest increase in the nation for any public flagship during that span. The lowest increases were at the University of Oklahoma, up 4.4 percent, and the University of Missouri, up 4.7 percent.

The five-year price increase in inflation-adjusted dollars for U-Va. was 23.4 percent, placing the school in the middle of the pack among flagships. The highest five-year price increase for any state flagship was at the University of Arizona, up 76.9 percent, to $10,391.

Prices fell in real terms at several flagships compared with the previous school year, the report found. The steepest cut was 2 percent at the University of California at Berkeley, to $12,864.

Public universities often raise prices for out-of-state students more than for in-state students. That was true for U-Md. in the past five years, with the school increasing tuition and fees for out-of-state students by 15.7 percent. For U-Va., the out-of-state price increase during that time was 25.9 percent.

A former Post education editor, Nick writes about college from the perspective of a father of three who will soon be buried in tuition bills.
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