College & Workforce Readiness

Dept. of Education Updates College-Cost List

By Caralee J. Adams — June 12, 2012 3 min read
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Students looking closely at the cost of college will find updated information today on schools with the lowest and highest tuition—and where is it going up fastest—at the U.S. Department of Education’s College Affordability and Transparency Center.

“Unfortunately, we are seeing some alarming trends,” said Secretary of Ed. Arne Duncan on a press call this afternoon.

Between 2008 and 2010, the published price of tuition at public, four-year universities went up an average of 15 percent and the net cost rose 4.6 percent. The bright spot was at two-year, public institutions, where costs went up 16.6 percent but the bottom-line price paid by students increased just 1 percent in the same time.

Historically, community colleges have been more affordable and have developed partnerships with industry that keep costs down, said Education Undersecretary Martha Kanter on the call. Without the research mission of a flagship university (and costs that come with that), community colleges have been able to focus on teaching and learning, she added.

The national average for in-state tuition and fees in 2010 for four-year, public universities was $6,669. Topping the most expensive schools in that list was Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus ($15,250), University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus ($14,936), University of Vermont ($14,066), University of New Hampshire-Main Campus ($13,672) and St Mary’s College of Maryland ($13,630). States hit particularly hard with budget cuts, and therefore, had big spikes in tuition, included California, Arizona, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Private, not-for-profit college tuition and fees averaged $21,949 with the following schools priced highest: Connecticut College in New London, Conn. ($43,990), Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y.($43,564), Columbia University ($43,304), Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. ($43,190) and George Washington University in D.C. ($42,905). The average net cost of private, not-for profit institutions rose 9.7 percent from 2008 to 2010, according to the department.

The cost of attending a for-profit institution continues to outpace other higher education sectors, with tuition and fees at West Coast University-Orange County in California leading the category at $36,075 a year.

With household incomes remaining stagnant and college costs rising, higher education is becoming out of reach for many families. This website is an effort to help families become savvy consumers and get the most for their tuition dollar, said education officials.

The department first published the College Affordability and Transparency lists last year, fulfilling the requirement of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008. While some lists contain tuition and fees, others look at the net price so families get a snapshot of the true cost of attending for full-time, first-time students once grants and scholarships are deducted.

The department plans to release a report online of those colleges and universities (1,878) where prices are rising the fastest, why costs have gone up, and how the institution will address rising prices, according to a department press release. There are a total of 4,165 institutions included on the combined lists:

Highest tuition and fees (top 5 percent)
Highest average net price (top 5 percent)
Lowest tuition and fees (bottom 10 percent)
Lowest average net price (bottom 10 percent)
Highest percentage increases in tuition and fees (top 5 percent)
Highest percentage increases in average net price (top 5 percent)
All Title IV institutions

Consumers can also search for cost in the following categories:

4-year public
4-year private nonprofit
4-year private for-profit
2-year public
2-year private nonprofit
2-year private for-profit
Less-than-2-year public
Less-than-2-year private nonprofit and
Less than-2-year private for-profit

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A version of this news article first appeared in the College Bound blog.