College & Workforce Readiness

Student Aid Can’t Keep Up With Rising College Prices

By Catherine Gewertz — October 26, 2016 1 min read
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The published prices for college tuition and fees in 2016-17 rose only moderately in the last year, but they are still rising faster than financial aid, leaving students in a bind as they try to finance postsecondary education, according to a pair of reports published Wednesday.

Published prices for tuition and fees—the “sticker price” colleges charge, not counting any loans, grants or tax credits that reduce the amount students pay—rose less in the last year than they did the year before, according to the College Board’s latest “Trends in College Pricing” and “Trends in Student Aid” reports. That slowdown in price increases continues a pattern that took shape as the nation recovered from the Great Recession.

Here you can see the one-year increases in published tuition and fees, ranging from 2.3 percent to 3.6 percent, depending on the higher education sector. (Notice that room and board charges are broken out separately.)

The student-aid report shows that the help available to students from federal student loans and grants has been decreasing for the last five years, while grant aid from states has risen only slightly. Grants from private institutions and employers have risen more, but despite that, the total amount of student aid (other than nonfederal loans) has declined from $259 billion in 2010-11 to $241 billion in 2015-16.

Students’ debt burden has gotten a lot of attention in recent years, but the College Board reports show that student debt has decreased for the fifth consecutive year. In a conference call with reporters, College Board researchers also noted that the heaviest burden of debt is among graduate students, not among undergraduates, as popular rhetoric sometimes implies.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.