College Board: Tuition Increases Slowing Down

WASHINGTON

Although the average tuition bill is up 35 percent compared to five years ago, the skyrocketing increases in recent years has slowed to a sputter, according to the College Board’s annual report on college tuition released Tuesday. Tuition for the 2006-07 academic year went up, just not as much, according to “Trends in College Pricing 2006.”

A companion report, “Trends in Student Aid 2006,” found that financial aid has not kept pace with the increases, furthering concerns that poor students are being priced out of higher education.

“The College Board continues to advocate for need-based aid, so that more students can have the opportunity to benefit from a college education,” says Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board. “Though student aid makes it possible for many students from low- and middle-income families to afford college, we still face inequality in access to higher education across ethnic, racial and economic lines.”

According to the report, based on published tuition rates for the 2006-07 academic year and adjusted for inflation, the average tuition at public four-year colleges was $5,836, a $344 increase over last year. Tuition at private, four-year institutions went up by 11 percent over the past five years to $22,218. At community colleges, the average tuition was $2,272, about $90 more than last year. With financial aid, however, students at public four-year schools pay $2,700 and those at private colleges pay about $13,200.

The report does not indicate the causes for the tuition increases but cites factors such as faculty salaries, health benefits and prices of goods and services purchased by colleges.

The report notes that Pell Grant funding dropped from $13.6 billion in 2004-2005 to $12.7 billion in 2005-2006. Although total student aid, including institutional aid and student loans, increased by 3.7 percent to $134.8 billion in 2005-2006, the average Pell Grant per recipient fell by $120.

Dr. David Ward, president of the American Council on Education, says it is disturbing to see the dollar amount drop on the Pell Grant program.

“The maximum grant now covers only 33 percent of tuition at public four-year institutions — that’s an all-time low. The Pell Grant remains our nation’s most important financial grant for needy students, and without future investment, thousands of individuals will have to defer or give up entirely on their dreams of earning a college degree,” Ward said in a statement.

About 46 percent of the benefit of the federal education tax credits goes to taxpayers with incomes below $50,000 and 54 percent goes to higher-income taxpayers, according to the study. 

U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., says that the report highlights the urgent need for Congress to enact proposals that would make college more affordable.

“This report offers strong evidence that students and parents continue to face a mounting college affordability crisis,” says Miller, the senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee. “Since 2001, the price of public college tuition has skyrocketed. These high prices leave college graduates saddled with unmanageable debt and prevent many qualified students from attending college in the first place. This is not only unfair, but it undermines our ability to maintain America’s economic leadership in the world.”

U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has endorsed more need-based aid, but several weeks ago chided American institutions for being “unduly expensive.”

Despite the rising costs, a college education is still a good investment, according to a supplemental report by the College Board that detailed the earnings gap between high school graduates and college graduates. Women, 25-34 years old, with bachelor’s degrees in 2005 earned 70 percent more than women with just a high school diploma, and for men the difference was 63 percent.

Remedial education was also a factor in completion of degrees, adds the report. Among bachelor’s degree recipients in 1999–2000, those who began their studies in four-year public colleges and universities took an average of 6.2 years to earn their degrees. Students at private, four-year institutions finished sooner, taking an average of 5.3 years to graduate.

“Both affordability and rigorous academic preparation are critical to improving access to college,” Caperton says.

Diverse Staff Reports



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