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College costs up; California public universities hike fees by rates that beat the national average

October 20, 2009 |  1:11 pm

The recession took its toll on college tuition costs this year, with students across the country facing bigger bills because of reduced state spending on higher education and diminished campus endowments, according to a College Board report released today.

And California’s public universities hiked their fees by rates well above the national averages.

Tackling severe budget problems, states raised annual tuition and fees by an average of 6.5% at four-year public colleges and universities across the country to about $7,020, not including room, board and other expenses, the survey found.

The 23-campus Cal State system hiked fees by about a third, to $4,026 for in-state undergraduates, not including room, board and separate campus fees. However, that still remained below the national average of $6,094 for public master's-degree-granting institutions.

The 10-campus UC system raised basic undergraduate fees for this fall by 9.3% to about $8,720 for California residents, not including living expenses. The national average for similar public, doctorate-granting universities was $7,797, the report said. Now UC is proposing another substantial increase that would put basic fees above $10,000 by next fall.

U.S. private colleges saw the value of their investments drop but were worried about pricing recession-battered families out, officials said. So the percentage rise at four-year, not-for-profit schools was a more modest 4.4% over the previous school year, bringing the average tuition to $26,273, according to the survey.

The tuition increases came at a time when the consumer price index actually declined about 2%. In contrast, for the school year that began in fall 2008, the increases in college costs at four-year schools was about the same as annual inflation.

However, officials urged students not to be scared off. About two-thirds of all college students receive grant aid, and on average, such financial aid cuts bills by more than half, according to the College Board study. In addition, federal tax credits can reduce costs even more.

-- Larry Gordon

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