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Published in Print: October 13, 1999, as College-Tuition-Rate Increase Is Lowest In Four Years

College-Tuition-Rate Increase Is Lowest In Four Years

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College-tuition rates rose less than 5 percent for the 1999-2000 school year, while the amount of aid available to students in the last academic year increased 4 percent to a record $64 billion, according to two reports released last week by the College Board.

For More Information

Read the College Board reports, "Trends in Student Aid" and "Trends in College Pricing, 1999". (Both reports require Adobe's Acrobat Reader.) Or order them for $16 each, including shipping and handling, from College Board Publications, PO Box 886, New York, NY 10101; (800) 323-7155.

Though the tuition increase is the lowest in the past four years, college prices continue to rise at a quicker rate than personal and family incomes, the New York City-based College Board says.

Its report "Trends in College Pricing" shows that tuition at private and public colleges and universities has more than doubled since 1981, but that median family income has risen only 22 percent in that period.

At an Oct. 5 press conference here, board President Gaston Caperton said that a college education was well worth the initial investment.

"A college education, over a lifetime, is worth about a million dollars," he said, referring to the difference in earning potential between a person with a high school diploma and one with a bachelor's degree or higher.

'Good News'

"The reports are good news," said Terry Hartle, a senior vice president of the Washington-based American Council on Education, an umbrella organization that represents the nation's colleges and universities.

Mr. Hartle said that colleges face many obstacles in trying to keep costs down, including keeping class sizes to a minimum and wiring dormitories and classrooms with fiber-optic cables.

According to the College Board's findings, the average cost of tuition and fees at a public four-year institution for the current academic year is $3,356, up $109 from last year.

"When student financial aid is consistent in the equation, college education is affordable," Mr. Hartle said. "There is enough financial aid out there that no qualified students have to find themselves excluded."

The College Board's other report, "Trends in Student Aid," shows that loan aid has increased 108 percent over the past decade and shifted away from grant-based aid.

To restore a balance, Mr. Caperton called on the federal government to put more money into Pell Grants for low-income students. Aid under the program now covers a little over one-third of the cost of attending a public four-year university.

Separately, the Department of Education announced last week that more students are paying their student loans on schedule. For the second year in a row, the rate at which students failed to pay their loans declined, the department said. The most recent data reflect the default rate for fiscal 1997, in which the rate fell to 8.8 percent from 9.6 percent the previous year. The highest default rate on record occurred in fiscal 1990, when it hit 22.4 percent.

Vol. 19, Issue 7, Page 3

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