Private College Tuition Continues Upward Climb

Posted by: Alison Damast on June 29, 2010

Students and families will get little relief from rising college costs this fall, with tuition and fees slated to increase an average of 4.5 percent at private nonprofit colleges and universities, according to a new survey of nearly 500 schools released today by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU). That figure is a bit higher than last year’s 4.3 percent increase in tuition and fees, but is still among the lowest increases in nearly 40 years, NAICU says.

The tuition hike for the 2009-10 academic year was the smallest increase in tuition and fees since the 1972-73 academic year. This year’s jump is the second lowest since then. Prior to the recession, the average annual increase at private colleges was 6 percent, NAICU says.

NAICU’s survey collects only percentage increases from school, not actual dollar amounts. According to the College Board, The average published tuition and fees at private colleges and universities in 2009-10 was $26,273; after factoring in grant aid and federal tax benefits, the fees for full-time students drop to $11,870. Figures are not yet available for the 2010-11 academic year.

One thing that may help offset the tuition hike is a 6.8 percent average increase in the grant and scholarship programs offered to students at private colleges, NAICU says. That jump comes on top of a 9 percent increase in institutional student aid last year, NAICU says. Financial aid has been creeping up at private colleges in recent years to help offset the cost of college, and has accelerated in the last few years as students and families struggle to pay for college.

"The economic downturn has accelerated efforts by private colleges to think and act creatively to enhance their affordability and remain competitive in the marketplace," says NAICU President David Warren in a press release.

Some schools are taking extreme measures to keep schools affordable for students, says Warren. Over the last two years, some institutions have frozen tuition, launched three-year degree programs and introduced other cost-saving measures, Warrens says.

"The bottom line for consumers is that they should not rule out a private college just because of the price tag," Warren says.

We'll have a better idea of the just how high tuition increases will be for students at private and public colleges and universities this fall, when the College Board releases its annual tuition report. To see the story I wrote on last year's report, click here.

Readers, are you worried that the cost of tuition and fees at private colleges and universities keeps on rising? Is your school doing anything to make tuition more affordable this year?

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