Report: Cost of college rising sharplyUND, NDSU tuition growth moderate in comparison
Against the backdrop of President Obama’s announcement to ease the burden of student debt, a nonprofit group said the cost of a college education rose by an average of 8.3 percent nationwide this fall.
By: Herald Staff and Wire Reports, Grand Forks Herald
Against the backdrop of President Obama’s announcement today to ease the burden of student debt, a nonprofit group said the cost of a college education rose by an average of 8.3 percent nationwide this fall.
In-state tuition and fees at four-year colleges now average $8,200, which is $631 more than last fall, according to the “Trends in Higher Education” series published by the College Board, an education advocacy group.
In North Dakota, both UND and North Dakota State University also raised their rates to $8,391 and $8,215 respectively this fall. Tuition and fees went up $175, or 2.1 percent, at UND and $532, or 6.9 percent, at NDSU.
The latter came under fire from legislators for the big increase, announced this spring.
Statewide, the average increase was less than 2 percent, the report said.
Over the same fall-to-fall period, overall U.S. inflation and Midwest inflation over the period was 3.9 percent.
Skyrocketing college costs were moderated by big increases in federal grants and tax credits for students while stimulus dollars prevented deeper cuts to state higher education budgets.
The College Board said the average tuition and fees that students actually pay is much lower: about $2,490, or just $170 more than five years ago.
But the days of states and families relying on budget relief from Washington appear numbered. And some argue that while Washington’s largesse may have helped some students, it did little to hold down prices.
“The states cut budgets, the price goes up, and the (federal) money goes to that,” said Patrick Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. “For 25 years we’ve been putting more and more money into financial aid, and tuition keeps going up. We’re on a national treadmill.”
Looking forward, state budgets remain broken and there’s little indication Washington will come riding to the rescue.
“I’m not exactly sure where higher education in the United States is going,” said Terry Hartle, senior vice president at the American Council on Education. “But I have a feeling California is going to get there first.”
California universities drove up the national average slightly because the state has a large population of college students — 10 percent of all U.S. students enrolled at four-year institutions are enrolled there — and its tuition hike was even larger at 21 percent.
That’s the most of any state.
But even without California, college costs would have increased an average of 7 percent nationally — an exceptional burden at a time of high unemployment and stagnant family incomes.
Hartle said the cause of the price increases for the 80 percent of college students who attend public institutions is clear.
State appropriations to higher education declined 18 percent per student over the last three years, the College Board found, the sharpest fall on record.
“To see increases of 20 percent, as we saw in California, to see gains of 15 percent in other states, is simply unprecedented,” Hartle said. “Tuition is simply being used as a revenue substitute in many states.”
The state of California, though, spent proportionally more on its colleges than many other states. Last year, the state spent around $7 for every $1,000 of its residents’ personal income. The national average was $6.33.
North Dakota spent even more proportionally, nearly $12, though this may be because its sparse population prevents it from enjoying the economy of scale as other states. Several of the top spenders are largely rural states such as Wyoming and New Mexico.
Deeper in debt
The College Board reports roughly 56 percent of 2009-2010 bachelor’s degree recipients at public four-years graduated with debt, averaging about $22,000. At private nonprofit universities, the figures were higher — 65 percent and around $28,000. Those figures are likely to rise, though private borrowing — usually more dangerous than government loans — has been falling.
“Psychologically, practically, it’s a big number, and it will inform important choices, like when and whether you buy a home, start a family, save for retirement or take the risk of starting a new business,” said Lauren Asher, president of The Institute for College Access and Success, who also applauded the Obama announcement.
She and other experts emphasize that the types of loans students take out can be as important as the amount. In general, a college degree remains a good investment.