The nation's four-year public colleges and universities increased tuition and fees by nearly 10% this year, the steepest rise in a decade, according to a survey released Monday.
The tuition hikes were accompanied by a 6% increase in the charges for room and board, raising the average cost of attending a four-year public school to $9,663, the nonprofit College Board reported in its annual cost survey. That is up $672 from last year.
The increases come in response to a sluggish economy, which has tightened states' revenue and shrunk endowments.
Public colleges in California, while raising rates for out-of-state students this year, held them steady for residents.
Nationwide, private four-year colleges saw increases as well, although less dramatic than those at public schools. Tuition climbed an average 5.8% to $18,273, and room and board charges rose 4.6%, to an average of $6,779.
Still, the average cost of enrolling at the nation's top private schools remained far higher. Harvard University raised its tuition and fees $1,369 to $27,130 this year, officials said. With room, board and other expenses, the total cost of attending the school rose to $35,950, up 4.9% from last year, they said.
Private institutions in California were about the same, with Stanford University's tuition and fees up 4.9% to $27,204.
But others had more significant increases, among them Claremont McKenna College, where tuition rose more than 7% this year to $26,160, up from $24,540 last year. Officials said the school's tuition had been lower than many similar institutions and that they do not expect similar increases in coming years.
In recent years, college costs have generally outstripped the rate of inflation, but higher education officials said they were troubled by the size of the increases this year, especially at public schools, which educate about 80% of the nation's college students.
The new report "confirms what we know too well: that the poor performance of the economy has had a substantial and negative impact on tax revenue and endowments, and consequently college tuitions," said David Ward, president of the American Council on Education, which represents 1,800 colleges and universities.
California, generally considered the nation's leader in providing low-cost public education to its residents, was a major exception to the trend.
Although both the University of California and California State University systems increased tuition about 15% this year for nonresident students, the costs for residents -- the great majority of students at the two systems -- remained the same.
The $4,224 for fees for California residents enrolled at UCLA were down slightly from last year. The overall cost of attendance, including room and board, was about the same as last year, about $13,000.
California residents attending one of Cal State's 23 campuses pay fees that vary slightly, depending on which campus they attend. But they generally will pay about $1,900 this year in university and campus fees, the same as last year, according to spokeswoman Clara Potes-Fellow.
Even with the recent increases, College Board officials emphasized that higher education is still affordable for most Americans.
Relatively few students actually pay full price, they noted, with tuition discounts and financial aid available to low-income and many middle-income students.
"There is a lot of aid available to students," said Sandy Baum, an economics professor at Skidmore College in New York who served as a consultant on the College Board study. "While college is expensive, it's manageable in some way for almost everyone."
Overall, College Board officials said, almost 40% of American college students attend schools whose tuition and fees are less than $4,000 a year; 70% attend schools that cost less than $8,000 in tuition and fees.
The College Board also reported that financial aid available to students reached record levels again this year -- $90 billion. But much of the aid comes in the form of loans, instead of grants, leaving many students burdened with debt for many years after they leave school. And scholarships, long directed at needy students, are increasingly being awarded on the basis of achievement instead of financial hardship.
Nonetheless, College Board President Gaston Caperton urged parents and students not to be discouraged by the latest increases or other difficulties in affording college. Those with a college education, on average, earn about $1 million more in their lifetimes than those without, he said.
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The yearly cost of college jumped nearly 10% at four-year public schools over the last year, the largest annual increase in a decade.
Costs National West
Four-year schools Public Private Public Private
Tuition and fees $4,081 $18,273 $3,074 $17,124
Additional out-of-state charges 6,347 8,163
Books and supplies 786 807 892 921
Room and board 5,582 6,779 6,694 6,951
Transportation 749 645 827 738
Other costs 1,643 1,173 1,844 1,416
Room and board 5,730 6,239 6,793 6,317
Transportation 1,013 957 932 986
Other costs 1,853 1,419 1,950 1,505
Source: The College Board