Annual borrowing for higher education is falling significantly, the College Board reported Thursday, while growth in the sticker price of college is continuing a recent slowdown.
Students and parents borrowed $106 billion in 2013-2014 from the federal government and other sources, the report found. That was down nearly 8 percent from the previous year after accounting for inflation, and down 13 percent from a peak of $122.1 billion in 2010-2011.
At the same time, the published price of college is rising moderately after the spike that resulted from the economic woes of 2008-2009. Some families pay full price, but many receive discounts.
Listed tuition and fees for four-year public colleges and universities across the United States this fall average $9,139 for in-state students, the report found. That reflects a second straight annual increase of less than 1 percent after inflation. In 2009-2010, the annual increase at those public institutions was 9.5 percent.
At private nonprofit colleges, listed tuition and fees this year average $31,231, not counting room and board. That is up 1.6 percent after inflation, a smaller increase than in each of the previous two years. The recent peak in price growth at these schools was a 5.9 percent annual increase in 2009-2010.
The findings point to a new reality for families seeking to pay for college: After years of steep tuition hikes, the College Board says, sticker prices “are not on an accelerating path” as college affordability remains a potent consumer and political issue.
The share of bachelor’s degree recipients who graduated with $40,000 or more in student loan debt rose from 2 percent in 2003-2004 to 18 percent in 2011-2012. But the latest data on borrowing and tuition could allay some worries about rising college costs.
“There are some trends that were pretty frightening in recent years that seem to be quieting down,” said Sandy Baum, a scholar at George Washington University who co-authored two new College Board reports on tuition and financial aid.
Lauren Asher, president of the Institute for College Access and Success, based in Oakland, Calif., said many families have been squeezed by the erosion of state funding for higher education.
“College affordability remains a big challenge, for low-income students especially,” Asher said.
The College Board, a nonprofit organization based in New York, provides authoritative readouts every year on tuition and financial aid, using data from its own surveys, the federal government and other sources.
Among its findings on financial aid:
●The number of students in financial need who receive federal Pell grants rose to 9.2 million in 2013-2014, up from 5.1 million a decade earlier. That reflects changes in economic conditions as well as expansion of a program that is the foundation of student aid. But the maximum Pell grant this school year — $5,730 — covers just 63 percent of average in-state tuition and fees at public four-year institutions, down from 79 percent a decade ago.
●Undergraduate participants in the main federal student loan program borrowed an average of $6,670 in the most recent school year, down 10 percent over three years.
●Colleges are giving much more aid through price discounts. In 2013-2014, these institutional grants totaled $48.2 billion. That was up 53 percent from 2007-2008.
On pricing trends, the College Board analyzed published tuition and fees, or sticker price, as well as the “net price,” which is what students pay after grants and savings from tax credits and deductions. Among the key findings:
●Prices vary widely by region. Listed tuition and fees for private nonprofit colleges range from $39,243 in New England to $27,400 in the South. The average for public four-year schools at the in-state rate is highest in New England ($11,436), and it is lowest in the Southwest ($8,254).
●The average net price for tuition and fees at four-year public schools is $3,030 this fall for in-state students, a slight decline, after inflation, from $3,150 the year before. Counting room and board, this net price is $12,830, an uptick from the inflation-adjusted total of $12,690 the year before.
●The average net price of tuition and fees at private nonprofit schools is $12,360, up from an inflation-adjusted $12,120 the year before. Counting room and board, this net price is $23,550, up from an inflation-adjusted $22,990.
The pricing report also compared tuition and fees at flagship state universities. The lowest list prices for in-state students are $4,646 at the University of Wyoming and $6,099 at the University of Montana. The highest are $18,464 at Pennsylvania State University in University Park and $16,552 at the University of New Hampshire.
Comparable prices are $9,427 at the University of Maryland in College Park and $12,998 at the University of Virginia. Among state flagships, U-Va. has the highest list price in tuition and fees for out-of-state students: $42,184, followed by the University of Michigan at $41,906.
The University of Georgia had the steepest five-year price increases for in-state students among the flagships: 59 percent after inflation. U-Va.’s increase in that time was 21 percent, and U-Md.’s was 6 percent. Price increases in many places have been driven by cuts in state funding.