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Study Faults the High Cost of Higher Education

September 07, 2006|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — An independent report on higher education flunks most states when it comes to affordability. It gives better but mixed grades in other areas, such as college participation and completion rates.

The biennial study by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education being released today evaluates how well higher education is serving the public -- and leaves little doubt where the system is failing.

Forty-three states received Fs for affordability, up from 36 two years ago. The others got Ds, except Utah and California, both of which eked out a C grade.

The report card uses a range of measurements to give states grades on the performance of their public and private colleges. The affordability grade is based on how much of an average family's income it costs to attend.

Almost everywhere that figure is up -- even accounting for financial aid, which has risen but not as fast as tuition.

In Ohio, public four-year colleges cost 42% of the average family's paycheck, up from 28% in the early 1990s. In New Jersey, costs have risen from 24% to 37%, and in Oregon from 25% to 36%.

The report card notes that increases in state and federal aid, though substantial, have not kept up with demand and prices. The study, along with a separate report published last week by the Education Trust, a Washington think tank, also says colleges aren't doing enough to help the neediest students.

Colleges increasingly are using their own funds to lure high-achieving students who boost a school's reputation.

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