Report confirms tuition trends

by Rebecca F. Johnson
October 20, 2004

Sticker prices at the nation's colleges and universities continued to increase this year, to an average of $5,132 for in-state students at four-year public schools and $20,082 for four-year private schools, a report released Tuesday says.

That's an increase of $487, or 10.5%, for tuition and fees at public colleges and $1,132, or 6%, at private colleges, says the non-profit College Board, whose annual report is based on responses from nearly 2,700 two- and four-year schools. Tuition at two-year public colleges increased an average of $167, or 8.7% this year, to $2,076.

The 2004-'05 costs remain at historic highs but represent smaller increases than last year's 13% for public colleges and 6% for privates.

The report also says students received more financial aid last year, a total of $122 billion, up 11% from 2002-03 after adjusting for inflation. But students are increasingly turning to private loans to pay for college, and of the grant aid that is available, a larger proportion of federal loans and tax benefits is going to families who are not considered the neediest. "For low-income students it's particularly difficult, because they don't have family resources on which to fall back to help them repay their loans," says Sandy Baum, senior policy analyst with the College Board and an economist at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

The increases are partly because of reduced state spending for colleges and universities, the report says. It adds that 36% of college revenue was from state funding in 2000, down from 50% in 1980.

The findings from the study are similar to those from USA TODAY's annual 50-state tuition survey reported in September. It found the average increase among 67 public flagship universities was $491.

Tuition and fees at some schools are up 50% or more since 2002-03, USA TODAY found. University administrators blamed the increases on state budget cuts, higher enrollment, rising health insurance costs, construction and renovations.

The new study also confirms an earlier investigative report by USA TODAY that found the amount the average student actually paid for a public four-year institution in 2003-04, after grant aid and education tax benefits, was about $1,300. Adjusted for inflation, this is less than students paid a decade earlier.

Other College Board findings:

* 73% of public four-year schools charge less than $6,000 for tuition and fees; nearly 47% of privates charge $15,000 to $23,999.

* Prices for room and board also increased this year, an average of 7.8% at four-year public colleges (to a total of $11,354 including tuition and fees) and 5.6% at private schools, to a total of $27,516.