College costs continue to outpace inflation, wages

Schools cite economy, drop in endowments


WASHINGTON - College costs continue to rise faster than inflation and wages, but financial aid is rising as well, the College Board reported yesterday.

"There's no better investment than a college education," said Gaston Caperton, president of the association of more than 4,000 educational institutions. "But financing that dream can cost many sleepless nights."

The College Board reported these increases in annual tuition and fees between the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 academic years:

Four-year private colleges and universities, up $1,001, or 5.8 percent, to $18,273.

Two-year private colleges, up $690, or 7.5 percent, to $9,890.

Four-year public colleges and universities, up $356, or 9.6 percent, to $4,081.

Two-year public colleges, up $127, or 7.9 percent, to $1,735.

That far outpaced increases of less than 2 percent in consumer prices and urban wages during the same period.

Adding the cost of books and supplies, room and board, transportation and miscellaneous expenses pushes the average undergraduate's budget for this year up to $10,458 for two-year community college students who pay their own rent and food bills, and to $27,695 for resident students at four-year private colleges.

"For public institutions, the inflation-adjusted increase of 8.4 percent in tuition and fees is larger in 2002-03 than in any year since 1981-82," said the report. It blamed a slowdown in the growth of state appropriations as the sinking economy lowered tax revenue to the states.

Other factors pushing up the cost include drops in the value of gifts to and endowments at colleges, and the rising cost of salaries and health care benefits for faculty and staff, said Sandy Baum, a higher-education economist at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

"The good news is financing is available," said Georgette DeVeres, associate vice president of admissions and financial aid at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif.

Financial aid figures are available through the 2001-2002 school year, the College Board reported.

Grants and loans to students and their families that year reached a record $89.6 billion, up 11.5 percent compared with the previous year, or 10 percent after adjusting for inflation.

"The other good news is that [last] year, grant aid went up faster than loan aid for the second straight year," Baum said. But, she said, most students depend mostly on loans.

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