With the economy struggling, parents and students dared to hope this year might offer a break from rising college costs. Instead, they got another sharp increase.
Average tuition at four-year public colleges in the United States climbed 6.5 percent, or $429, to $7,020 this fall as schools apologetically passed on much of their own financial problems, according to an annual report from the College Board, released Tuesday. At private colleges, tuition rose 4.4 percent, or $1,096, to $26,273.
"Every sector of the American economy is under stress and higher education is no exception," said Terry Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education. "It's regrettable, and it's yet another piece of disappointing economic news that affects families."
The price increases came despite painful cost-cutting by colleges on everything from faculty to cafeterias and sports travel. And as usual, the rise in tuition outstripped the overall inflation rate.
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In fact, during the period covered by the report, consumer prices declined 2.1 percent.
"It's only natural for parents to question why colleges are raising their prices yet again, while the rest of our economy is inflation-free," said James Boyle, president of the group College Parents of America.
The news isn't all bad. The estimated net price — what the average student actually pays after financial aid is taken into account — is still much lower than the list price, at about $1,620 at public four-year colleges, and under $12,000 at private ones.