Tuition costs rise while grants, scholarships drop; students move to loans

College Press Service

WASHINGTON- The cost of college continues to rise twice as fast as the rate of inflation, a new study by the College Board has found.

This has caused today's students to take on more debt to cover college costs, say educators.

College tuition increased on average by 6 percent, while inflation rose by 2.6 percent last year, according to the Consumer Price Index.

College tuition and fees now average $12,432 at private four-year colleges, $2,960 at public four-year colleges, $6,350 at private two-year colleges and $1,387 at public two-year colleges, according to the study, which surveyed 2,800 schools.

"The reality of going to school has become less of a possibility for some students and families," said Kathleen Brouder, College Board spokesperson. "But if they are willing to look for financial aid opportunities, there are resources out there that can make school more affordable."

Those financial aid opportunities, however, are quickly shifting from grants to loans, said College Board President Donald Stewart. Almost 60 percent of the nearly $46 million available in financial aid is in the form of student loans. Ten years ago, loans accounted for about 40 percent of all financial aid.

"We need to take a look at the loan imbalance in this country and see how much our, students can afford," Stewart said.

This year's 6 percent tuition increase is less than the 9 percent to 10 percent increases colleges implemented in the late 1980s, but for some, the 6 percent hike is still too high.

"Schools are coming dangerously close to scaring off students," said David Merkowitz, spokesperson for the American Council on Education. "If tuition increases by a larger amount, a lot of people will be taking a close look at their options."

Anita Roswell, a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said that the price of her education has a direct impact on her weekly schedule.

"I have to weigh every hour I spend in class because I know that that's time I won't be able to work," said Roswell, who saw her tuition and fees increase by nearly 7 percent this fall. "I just want to get out in two years, otherwise I won't be able to afford it."

David Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, said cost increases for colleges are similar to other institutions.

"There are similar expenses to worry about, like insurance, benefits, pensions and higher costs for materials," said Warren. "We are all working in the same economic climate."

At the same time, Roz Herbert, director of public information for the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, said today's public institutions are burdened by smaller federal and state contributions to education.

"Schools are restructuring at a time when the government is cutting back funding," Herbert said, mentioning the proposal to cut $10 billion from the higher education budget passed by both Senate and House committees.

But with shrinking contributions from state and federal sources, Herbert said the colleges are forced to make tough budget decisions. "Schools try to keep their cuts out of the student sector as much as possible," she said. "But when you cut staff in the financial aid office to save a dollar here and combine departments to save a dollar there, you're ultimately going to affect students anyway."

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