College Attendance Costs up 15% Over Two Years, Report Finds

The U.S. Department of Education has released a list of non-profit four-year colleges and universities ranked by cost of tuition and other expenses. The list revealed that between 2008 and 2010 the average price of attending an institution of higher learning has increased by 15%, partially as a result of reduction in state education funding. In some public university systems, like Georgia, Arizona and California, the costs have gone up by more than 40%.

The DoE list is meant to serve as an aid for students seeking to get a clear picture of college costs when making their academic decisions. The news of the price hikes comes at an especially difficult time for both prospective and current students, who are not only facing steep tuition bills, but an uncertain job market once they complete their degree.

The price hikes aren’t unique to public colleges. Private schools, including the ones in the for-profit sector, also haven’t been shy about tuition bumps.

At Full Sail University, a film and art school in central Florida, the average price of tuition, fees, books, and other expenses totals $43,990, even when grants and scholarships are factored in. The average net price for an incoming Harvard student: $18,277, according to the department. Net price is cost of attendance minus grant and scholarship aid.

U.S. Secretary of Eduction Arne Duncan said that these kinds of cost increases are troubling, especially at the time when the Obama Administration has made it one of its goals to increase the proportion of U.S. students who are enrolling and graduating with a degree. Raising the number of college graduates is a key to staying globally competitive, economically, at a time when modern business requires a highly skilled labor force, especially in information systems and engineering industries.

Of public universities, Pennsylvania State University comes in at the top, with in-state tuition of $15,250, with the total cost of attendance clocking in at $19,816 – fourth in the nation. The spokesman for the school, Bill Mahon, blamed the tuition hike on state budget cuts that followed nearly ten years of anemic government funding support.

The data released Tuesday shows increases for four-year, public institutions that are similar what has been observed over the last decade, though Duncan said costs have increased faster in recent years. Between 2001-02 and 2011-12, in-state tuition and fees at public, four-year colleges increased at an average rate of 5.6% each year, according to the College Board’s 2011 report on trends in higher education pricing. That rate is higher than in previous decades: In the 1980s, tuition increased at about 4.5% each year, and in the 1990s at 3.2%.

06 14, 2012
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