Survey reports decline in college tuition, fee jumps

By Natalie Carino

The College Board’s Annual Tuition survey, which came out earlier this month, produced results that would bring a smile to the faces of many college students.

According to their survey, the size of tuition and fee increases at four-year public colleges has declined for the third consecutive year. Tuition at four-year public colleges increased by 6.3 percent for the 2006-07 academic year. This is the smallest increase in the past five years.

“I think it’s been a true effort on the part of the educational institution and state to keep those costs down,” said Bob Andersen, senior associate director of Student Financial Aid. “Over the past couple of years, our governor has said, ‘You can’t go higher than this amount.'”

The survey reported that for the 2006-07 academic year at four-year public colleges, tuition and fees rose by an average $344 to $5,836 a year.

“If the tuition overall is not increasing at such a high rate, that’s a great thing because the cost of going to school nowadays is so high and it’s difficult for the students to take care of all their expenses,” said Chris Kantas, senior in LAS and student trustee for the Illinois Student Senate.

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Even though tuition increases are becoming smaller, the cost to attend college is up 35 percent from five years ago. Federal-grant aids are not keeping up with inflation either, according to the College Board.

The College Board reported that, in 2005-06, the total spending for Pell Grants dropped from $13.6 billion to $12.7 billion and the maximum Pell Grant award has been stagnant at $4,050 since 2003-04.

“When you look at the total need for financial aid, our efforts are not keeping up with the increases and the federal government has done very little,” Andersen said.

The lack of federal assistance causes many students to look for other sources of money, such as private loans.

Ten years ago, private loans accounted for only four percent of total borrowing. In 2005-06, however, private loans made up 20 percent of educational borrowing.

“If grant assistance stagnates and our costs keep going up, the only thing that can happen is increase loans,” Andersen said. “Then you have unmet needs, which means you need to go outside the school and borrow.”

The University has taken measures to help students deal with the rising cost of tuition. In the fall of 2004, the University implemented the Guaranteed Tuition Program, which keeps tuition at the same level for four years for first-time undergraduate students. According to a summary of the program prepared by the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs, the purpose of the program is to “insulate students from sporadic fluctuations in the tuition rates at the University”.

“We are very impressed with the lock because that allows the students to plan and budget how they are going to acquire the funds to pay for tuition,” Kantas said. “You are better able to plan for the next four years.”