College prices rise as states cut budgets


Associated Press

It’s a kick in the gut even for students and families hardened to bad financial news: Average in-state tuition and fees at four-year public colleges rose an additional $631 this fall, or 8.3 percent, compared with a year ago.

Nationally, the cost of a full credit load has passed $8,000, an all-time high. Throw in room and board, and the average list price for a state school now runs more than $17,000 a year, according to the twin annual reports on college costs and student aid published today by the College Board.

Helping drive the national numbers were huge tuition increases at public universities in California, which enrolls 10 percent of public four-year college students and whose 21 percent tuition increase this year was the largest of any state.

But even without California, prices would have increased 7 percent on average nationally — an exceptional burden at a time of high unemployment and stagnant family incomes.

The large increase in federal grants and tax credits for students, on top of stimulus dollars that prevented greater state cuts, helped keep the average tuition and fees that families actually pay much lower: about $2,490, or just $170 more than five years ago. But the days of states and families relying on budget relief from Washington appear numbered. And some argue that although Washington’s largesse may have helped some students, it did little to hold down prices.

“The states cut budgets, the price goes up, and the [federal] money goes to that,” said Patrick Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. “For 25 years, we’ve been putting more and more money into financial aid, and tuition keeps going up. We’re on a national treadmill.”

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama planned to announce a new measure today to help borrowers of student loans.

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