Tuition, fees rise 10.5% at U.S. colleges

October 20, 2004|By Stuart Silverstein | Stuart Silverstein,LOS ANGELES TIMES

Tuition and fees have climbed an average of 10.5 percent, or $487, this year at the nation's public four-year colleges and universities, the College Board reported yesterday. The increase was smaller than last year's 13.3 percent but still among the biggest in the past quarter-century.

Officials with the nonprofit group and other analysts said that the latest tuition and financial aid trends are forcing many students to go more deeply into debt than in the past to pay for their education.

Gaston Caperton, president of the New York-based College Board, called the diminishing percentage of college grants awarded to students based on their financial need a "critical problem."

He said the federal tax credits and deductions since the late 1990s, along with increasing amounts of scholarships for academic merit, have reduced the actual price that many affluent students pay for higher education, but those benefits have "not reached low-income students in the same way."

At the same time, Caperton said that schools have faced economic pressure to raise tuition and fees. He cited such factors as declining state government support for higher education and the need for schools to spend heavily on new technology and facilities to remain competitive.

The 10.5 percent tuition and fees increase for the current school year brings the average attendance charges at public four-year schools to $5,132. With room and board charges, the overall cost rises to $11,354.

According to College Board figures dating back 27 years, tuition rises at public four-year institutions have exceed 10 percent only seven other times.

At four-year private schools this year, tuition and fees rose 6 percent, or $1,132, climbing to $20,082. With room and board, the overall expense comes to an average of $27,516.

Costs vary widely, however, and some top-flight universities quote annual costs of more than $40,000 a year for students. Still, the College Board research, to some extent, found some bright spots in the college cost picture.

The group found that tuition and fees at public four-year schools cost students an average of $1,300 in the 2003-2004 school year after tax breaks and grant aid are taken into account. That is down slightly from 1993-1994.

The board said that the comparable bottom-line figure for what students are paying for school this year probably is up from 2003-2004 because of the big jump in tuition.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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