Tuition & Financial Aid:Reports Depict Mixed Trend
WASHINGTON — To hear The College Board tell it, there is good news and then there is good news about tuition and financial aid.
But that’s only half right — on both counts. More accurately: There is almost-good news and there is not-so-bad news — generously speaking, on both counts.
First, the almost-good news. A record $64 billion was available in student financial aid last year. But while that is 85 percent higher than a decade ago after adjusting for inflation, according to The College Board report, “Trends in Student Aid,” the vast majority of this growth has come in the form of student borrowing. The report reveals loans now represent 58 percent of all aid, compared to slightly more than 40 percent in 1980-81.
Then there is the not-so-bad news. According to another College Board report, “Trends in College Pricing 1999,” undergraduates at the nation’s colleges will see their tuition and fees rise, but the increases will be less than 5 percent — the lowest rate of increase in four years.
Calling the lower rates a “very positive trend for American families,” Dr. Gaston Caperton, The College Board’s president says that “the cost of not going to college is much higher than the cost of going to college. There has been a great deal of focus on the price of a college education, and too little focus on its value.”
On average, college students can expect to pay 3.4 percent more this year than last in tuition and fees at four-year public institutions, 4.6 percent more at four-year private institutions, and between 3 and 5 percent more at two-year institutions. Depending on the type of institution, that translates into increases of between $73 and $671 more than last year.
Students also can expect to face charges of about 4 percent more for room and board.
When the reports were released earlier this month, Caperton decried what he considers false impressions that lead many people to overestimate the cost of college.
“Such impressions are especially detrimental for thousands of minority and immigrant students and their parents who might be led to think that college is out of their financial grasp,” he said, noting that the average annual tuition at two-year public institutions is still below $2,000.
Dr. Stanley O. Ikenberry, president of the American Council on Education, agrees with Caperton’s assessment.
“Our research shows that far too many Americans continue to believe that the cost of a college education is spiraling out of their reach. The facts are to the contrary,” Ikenberry says.
But while everyone is glad to see the declining trend in tuition hikes, not everyone shares Caperton’s assessment of the impact of the increases.
“While the news is good, we can and should do better. In many states, insufficient financial support for higher education has resulted in tuition that is too high and student debt that is too large,” says Dr. Constantine Curris, president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.
And while acknowledging colleges for trying to hold down tuition, Jamie Pueschel, the legislative director for the U.S. Student Association, says the increases will make it harder for some to afford college.
“I think these numbers look good in relation to what they were in the past,” he told one newspaper. “[But] increases above inflation, as these are, still hurt students.”
Regarding the financial aid report, Caperton noted that the purchasing power of the Pell grant has declined in recent years, outpaced by inflation and rising college prices. He urged legislators to recognize their responsibility in helping to stabilize the financial aid system’s loan/grant balance.
“As we approach the next election,” Caperton said. “I urge candidates at all levels to advocate policies that recognize the shared responsibility of government in financing higher education for all, and thus to expand the number of college students from every social class and ethnic group.”
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com