While tuition at public and private colleges alike continues to rise, total grant aid for students stalled in 2011-12, according to two recent reports on college pricing and student aid trends by the College Board Advocacy & Policy Center.
The average published tuition and fees for in-state students at public four-year colleges and universities increased by 4.8 percent, from $8,256 in 2011-12, to $8,655 in 2012-13. This was accompanied by a $325 increase in room and board charges for students living on campus, bringing the total cost of living to $9,205. According to the report, in 2012-13, tuition and fees for in-state students at flagship universities range from $4,278 at the University of Wyoming and $5,985 at the University of Montana, to $16,422 at the University of New Hampshire and $17,266 at Penn State.
For students attending out-of-state public four-year colleges and universities, average tuition and fees increased by $883, from $20,823 in 2011-12 to $21,706 in 2012-13. Total charges, including room and board for students living on campus, currently average $30,911.
Meanwhile, average tuition and fees at private nonprofit four-year institutions amounts to $29,056 in 2012-13, an increase of $1,173 from the previous year. Factoring in room and board costs, total charges average $39,518.
According to a College Board statement, the average annual increase in average published tuition and fees at private nonprofit four-year colleges and universities over the decade from 2002-03 to 2012-13 was 2.4 percent beyond inflation — lower than in either of the two preceding decades. That said, the 5.2 percent average growth rate in tuition and fees at public four-year institutions was higher than that of either of the two preceding decades.
In an accompanying report, the authors determined that while total student borrowing has increased rapidly over the past decade, the rate of growth has decreased in recent years. The 4-percent decline in total education borrowing — including federal student and parent loans, as well as nonfederal loans — between 2010-11 and 2011-12 represents the first decline in at least 20 years.
In 2011-12, undergraduate students across all sectors of higher education received an average of $13,218 per full-time equivalent student in financial aid, including $6,932 in grant aid from all sources and $5,056 in federal loans. Federal grant aid for undergraduates nearly doubled from $26 billion (in 2011 dollars) to $52 billion between 2008-09 and 2010-11, but declined to $49 billion in 2011-12.
Over the past decade, the number of federal Stafford Loan borrowers nearly doubled, while the average amount borrowed from subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford Loans combined increased by 8 percent, from $7,627 (in 2011 dollars) to $8,230. The number of students receiving Pell Grants also increased from 4.3 million in 2001-02 to 9.4 million — or 37 percent of all undergraduates — in 2011-12. Mitt Romney has said on the campaign trail that he won’t promise to boost Pell Grant awards, and that voters should not expect the government to forgive student loan debt. His running mate, Paul Ryan, meanwhile, has proposed a budget in the House that would prevent up to one million low-income students from receiving Pell grants.
President Barack Obama has said several times in 2012 colleges must work to contain costs and not rely on tuition increases in the absence of state funding. If they do not, Obama said, they could lose out on federal money.
According to the College Board report, with full-time undergraduates at public four-year institutions in 2012-13 receiving an estimated average of $5,750 in grant aid from all sources and federal tax benefits to help pay the average $8,655 in tuition and fees, students are paying an average tuition and fee price of just over $2,900. This net price has increased annually since 2009-10.