College costs rising even faster than before

Wednesday, October 24, 2001

Associated Press/Paul Vathis

Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge J. Michael Eakin displayed several of his opinions that he has penned in rhyming verse, in his Mechanicsburg, Pa., office.By Arlene Levinson ~ The Associated Press

A survey released Tuesday found the long-standing trend of college costs outpacing inflation worsened this year, and education leaders said the weakening economy was partly to blame.

The College Board reported that a year at a four-year public campus now averages $9,008, while the price tag at a private college is $23,578. Last year's survey said tuition, room and board averaged $8,400 at public schools and $22,500 at private schools.

The survey was completed at the end of August, before the terrorist attacks further jolted economic prospects. Falling tax revenues and state support were forcing public institutions to boost tuition prior to Sept. 11, while private colleges saw a shrinking stock market pinch endowments.

Since the 1980s, many state institutions have raised tuition because legislatures refused to cover rising costs, said David Ward, former chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and now president of the American Council on Education.

"It's being exacerbated by the downswing," he said.

Offering a bit of comfort, economists said the dollar figures in the annual survey are less dramatic than they appear. Thanks to grants and scholarships, many students end up paying less than the survey figures suggest.

"The price you're hearing about is not the price at all; it's the sticker price," said Professor Gordon Winston, an economist at Williams College. "Net price is after grant aid. That's what determines whether someone goes to college."

The College Board, a New York-based nonprofit, derived its report of 2001-02 charges from a survey of 2,732 nonprofit college and universities.

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