School Choice & Charters

College Tuition Rising But Still ‘Affordable,’ Experts Say

By John Gehring — October 31, 2001 2 min read
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Tuition at public and private colleges is rising, and while a record amount of financial aid is available, more students than ever are relying on loans rather than grants to pay for their educations, the College Board says in a pair of new reports.

“Trends in Student Aid 2001" and “Trends in College Pricing 2001,” from the College Board. (Require Adobe Acrobat Reader.)

“Trends in College Pricing 2001" found students at four-year public institutions currently pay an average of $3,754 a year in tuition alone, a 7 percent increase from the previous year.

At four-year private institutions, students are paying $17,123, or 5.5 percent more than they did the year before. Room and board at four-year public universities rose from $4,931 to $5,254, and from $6,168 to $6,455 at four-year private colleges.

But Gaston Caperton, the president of the New York City-based College Board, said although college tuition has risen, more than 40 percent of students who attend four-year institutions still pay less than $4,000 for tuition and fees. He also touted the value of two-year public institutions, where tuitions average less than $2,000.

“College is affordable today,” Mr. Caperton said at an Oct. 23 press conference here. “There are options for everyone.”

More Aid in Loans

Students received more than $74 billion in student aid in 2000-01, a jump of 7 percent over the preceding year, according to “Trends in Student Aid 2001,” the companion report that the College Board also released last week.

While the figure is almost double the amount of aid available a decade ago, loans now represent 58 percent of all aid, compared with slightly more than 41 percent of aid in 1980.

The report also notes that the purchasing power of Pell Grants, the popular federal financial-aid program for low-income students, has declined.

A 1998 report by the Washington-based Institute for Higher Education Policy found that the maximum Pell Grant covered 35 percent of the cost of a private institution in 176 and 72 percent of the cost of a public institution. The College Board says the average Pell Grant today covers only 40 percent of costs at four-year public colleges and 15 percent at four-year private colleges.

College Board officials also announced plans to form a panel on student aid to examine ways to ensure that a lack of financial aid is not a barrier to college. The panel, which will begin work in November, will be made up of educators, researchers, and university presidents.

The new reports come at a time when higher education leaders are worried about their institutions’ financial health in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Patricia McGuire, the president of Trinity College in Washington, said the attacks and subsequent anthrax scares have raised the costs of providing security counseling services for students. Increased security at Trinity, a private institution in the heart of the District of Columbia, could also take a financial toll, she said.

“Cost of security is already high on urban campuses. At Trinity, it’s already two times as much as my library budget,” said Ms. McGuire.

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