College Tuition Increases Slow Down; Students Take On Less Debt

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The past year’s published increase in tuition and fees across all kinds of U.S. colleges and universities rose at a slower rate than the average for the past five, 10 and 30 years. And today’s students are going into less debt to pursue their degrees.

Those are the key findings of a report released late last week by the College Board.

The College Board is a private association that includes more than 6,000 colleges, universities and schools. It creates and administers standardized tests, including the SATs, and provides services and support to students and their parents as they consider college.

The rate of tuition increase has declined in each of the past three years, according to the College Board.

Students also are borrowing less money for college, the report said, in part due to the federal government increasing Pell Grants, tuition help for veterans and other assistance.

The report says a rebound from the economic downturn of the past few years was a factor. In contrast to the private sector, higher education costs tend to increase during tough economic times, as out-of-work adults seek new degrees and students who could opt to enter the job market choose to stay in school instead.

But even if recent trends are promising, a longer look at college costs shows that paying for higher education remains daunting for many families. While increases are slowing, they continue to climb higher than the rate of inflation.

Over the past decade, the average published tuition and fees at public, four-year schools have risen a whopping 42%, adjusted for inflation, according to the College Board.

“It is encouraging that published prices are rising more slowly than in the past and that annual education borrowing has continued to decline,” Sandy Baum, the report’s co-author and a professor of education policy at George Washington University, said in a written release.

“However, the reports also document dramatic increases in published tuition and fees over time that outstrip growth in grant aid for many students, as well as rising levels of cumulative debt among graduates.”

And, as the Chronicle of Higher Education notes, those figures don’t take into account other costs, like rent and groceries, which continue to rise.

According to the Chronicle, average room and board charges for four-year students now amount to more than $9,800.

Between the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years, tuition and fees for full-time, in-state students at public four-year colleges and universities increased 2.9%, from $8,885 to $9,139.

The cost for out-of-state students at those schools rose 3.3%, from $22,223 to $22,958 during the same period, and tuition and fees at private, nonprofit four-year institutions jumped 3.7%, from $30,131 to $31,231.

Tuition and fees at public two-year schools also went up 3.3% on average, from $3,241 to $3,347.

Actual net prices tend to be much lower than published prices, the Board said, because many students receive grants from state and federal governments, or from the colleges and universities themselves. Education tax credits and deductions also help chip away at those numbers.


College graduate and debt illustration via Shutterstock.