The College Board report, Trends in College Pricing, shows that the cost of tuition is rising rapidly while the quality of education is declining. Public schools and their students are still feeling the effects of the recession as states slash budgets and families struggle to come up with money for college. On the plus side, a huge increase in government financial aid has helped offset the increase in college costs.
Trends in College Pricing
The College Board report said that tuition rose an average of 8 percent at four-year universities. According to the Christian Science Monitor, more than a third of undergraduates attend public colleges where tuition and fees average about $7,600 for in-state residents–a 7.9 percent increase from last year. Total college costs average about $16,000 a year, a 6 percent increase. In the past decade, state colleges have struggled to maintain the quality of education. Spending has increased 8 percent but enrollments have risen 33 percent. Spending per student has declined steadily.
Federal student aid surges
The rapid rise in college costs is paralleled by the availability of student financial aid. Sandy Baum a lead author of the College Board report, told the New York Times that federal stimulus funds for states and a massive infusion of federal financial aid has helped blunt the increases faced by families trying to pay for college. In 2009-2010, the federal government spent $28 billion in Pell grants–$10 billion more than the year before. Students averaged about $6,100 in grants and tax benefits at public four-year schools, $16,000 at private nonprofit schools, and $3,400 at public two-year colleges.
Bad timing for tuition hikes
College costs are rising at an inopportune time. Patrick Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, told the Associated Press that tuition is rising after a decade in which income did not rise for 90 percent of American families. Millions of providers are unemployed. Despite the increase in federal student aid, the government isn’t moving fast enough to meet current and future need. Baum told the Monitor that colleges have to figure out how to educate more students cost-effectively before families, states and the federal government go broke.