- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The increase in college costs has slowed in the past year, but prices are still rising faster than inflation, the College Board said yesterday. The board said average costs at four-year institutions increased about 6 percent. Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics listed inflation at 2.1 percent from September 2005 to September 2006, based on the Consumer Price Index. Total student aid increased 3.7 percent last year, according to the board’s 2006 reports on college costs and aid. “There’s some good news,” said Sandy Baum, the board’s senior policy analyst. “There’s a lot of aid out there.” However, federal Pell Grant aid fell for the first time in six years, with the average recipient getting $120 less, the report said. The report blamed the decrease on an adjustment to the eligibility formula, which assumed an increase in after-tax incomes that caused students to qualify for less money. Ms. Baum thinks the stagnation in median income means college is costing families more. The report said the increase in financial aid offset only 26 percent of the growth in tuition and fees at private schools and only 74 percent at public, four-year institutions. Ms. Baum said low-income students still receive less aid than more affluent students. Catharine B. Hill, president of Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and an economist studying education affordability, thinks high-achieving, low-income students seem to be avoiding selective, private colleges because of pricing information. “They have the academic credentials to be there, and they’re not,” Ms. Hill said. Realizing students must pay for more than tuition and fees, schools such as the University of Virginia and the University of Maryland have created programs to reduce costs to students. “In terms of interest in the university, I haven’t seen that a cost of a Maryland education is a factor in terms of deterring students from applying to the university,” said Shannon Gundy, assistant director of undergraduate admissions at the University of Maryland. The University of Virginia’s Access UVA program caps all student loans at $19,000, increases grants and provides work study, pledging to meet 100 percent of need, said Yvonne Hubbard, director of student financial services. “If a school was committed to really offsetting the increasing costs for students that are on need, they’re going to have to increase their aid to students,” she said. “Even though the costs go up, you’ll see our aid goes up.” The report said D.C. private institutions cost the most among local colleges this year, increasing 3 percent to an average of $27,601. D.C. public colleges cost the least, growing 27 percent to $3,210 per year for D.C. residents. Maryland’s public, four-year schools increased costs 1 percent to $7,241 a year, while private institutions increased tuition and fees 6 percent to $26,480. In Virginia, four-year, public school costs grew 9 percent to $6,558 per year, and private schools increased tuition and fees 6 percent to an average of $20,536.

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