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The debate over the skyrocketing cost of going to college may get even more intense as a result of the 1988-89 tuition figures recently released by the College Board.

In its annual survey of college costs, the board reports that tuition will increase an average of 7 percent this fall. That means that tuition increases will outstrip the overall rate of inflation--which is running about 4 percent these days--for the eighth straight year.

The sharpest increases will be found at private, four-year institutions. Tuition and fees at those schools will go up 9 percent over last year, to an average of $6,457. Costs at four-year public colleges will increase by an average of 4 percent, to $1,483. Among two-year colleges, tuition and fees will jump 7 percent at private institutions, to $4,415, and 5 percent at public institutions, to $750.

Critics, led by Secretary of Education William J. Bennett, have charged that the tuition increases are unnecessarily high, and that some colleges raise tuition to promote an image of being among the most elite and selective institutions.

College officials counter that tuitions are rising faster than inflation because institutions are putting more money into financial aid while struggling to make low faculty salaries competitive and complete maintenance work long deferred.

Once again, Bennington College of Vermont will be the most expensive institution of higher learning in the country, according to the College Board survey. Tuition, fees, and room and board at the school will total $18,990.

Adding in an estimated $1,550 for books, transportation, and other expenses, the tab for a year at Bennington comes to $20,540.

Joining Bennington in the over-$20,000 class (once books and other expenses are included), are Sarah Lawrence College, $20,310; Brandeis University, $20,136; and Barnard College of Columbia University, $20,100.

The most expensive public institution in the nation is the University of Michigan, where tuition, fees, room, and board will total $6,875. It is followed by the Virginia Military Institute, $6,540; University of Illinois-Chicago Circle, $6,455; and the College of William and Mary, $6,370.

Given the news on the spiraling cost of higher education, it is not surprising that American teenagers are worried about how to pay for college.

Being able to afford a college education was the greatest worry of 39 percent of the 300 teenagers surveyed recently by the American Home Economics Association.

School costs are hardly the only thing on young people's minds, though. Thirty-nine percent of the students surveyed listed aids as their greatest worry.--mw

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