Average college cost breaks $30,000
Average for 4-year private school passes key mark; total costs for both public and private schools up well above inflation.
By Rob Kelley, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The average cost of a four-year private college jumped to $30,367 this school year, the first time the average has broken the $30,000 mark.

As they have for the past 11 years, average college costs rose faster than inflation, according the latest report from the College Board, a non-profit association of 4,500 schools, colleges and universities.

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College Costs
Tuition Total Cost
Four-year public $5,836 $12,796
Four-year private $22,218 $30,367

The good news is that the rate of increase at four-year public colleges slowed slightly for the third year in a row - to 6.3 percent from a 7.1 percent jump last year. The average tuition at four-year public colleges and universities is $5,836 for the 2006-07 school year.

The rate of growth in tuition at four-year private colleges was the same as last year - 5.9 percent - and the average tuition reached $22,218.

Of course, college costs don't just end at tuition. Room and board costs grew at around 5 percent for both public and private schools this year, with public schools at $6,960 and private schools $8,149 a year.

With room and board, four-year public colleges average $12,796 for in-state residents.

In need of aid?

Almost two-thirds of full-time students receive grant aid that lowers their tuition costs. And millions also benefit from federal tax credits and deductions for college tuition.

Total student aid increased 3.7 percent to $134.8 billion in 2005-06, but federal grant aid didn't keep pace with inflation. Without taking inflation into account, the average Pell Grant per recipient fell by $120.

After grant aid and tax benefits, full-time students at public four-year colleges are paying an average $2,700 a year in net tuition and fees. But this number has increased at an even faster rate than published prices because grant aid hasn't kept pace with tuitions. Just over a quarter of all students - 28 percent - are in such a situation.

Full-time students at private schools pay an average of $13,200 in tuition and fees after grants and tax benefits. In total, 13 percent of the students in the survey were enrolled full-time in private schools.

Over the past decade, total student aid, including grants, loans, work-study and tax benefits, increased by 95 percent, adjusted for inflation.

But loans have grown to become a bigger part of aid packages, while grant aid has shrunken.

Loans constitute 51 percent of total aid to graduate and undergraduate students, while grants made up 44 percent.

"The College Board continues to advocate for need-based aid, so that more students can have the opportunity to benefit from a college education," said Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board, in a statement.

"Though student aid makes it possible for many students from low- and middle-income families to afford college, we still face inequality in access to higher education across ethnic, racial and economic lines," he said.

Why costs keep climbing

In the past few years, tight government budgets have kept been cutting off non-tuition revenue from colleges, forcing schools to ask for more from students' checkbooks.

Nor have the costs of health benefits and utilities gone down. And schools are also grappling with higher faculty salaries, especially at private institutions where faculty receive higher pay.

The benefits of a bachelor's

In an accompanying survey, "Education Pays 2006," the College Board analyzes the benefits in lifetime earnings trends of those who've earned a college degree.

The data showed a big earnings gap between high school and college graduates. In 2005, women aged 25-34 with bachelor's degrees earned 70 percent more than those with high school diplomas, up from 47 percent in 1985. For men, that gap was 63 percent, up from 37 percent in 1985.

Full-time workers aged 25-34 with college degrees make an average of $14,000 a year more than those with high school diplomas.

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