College tuition is still getting more expensive

CNNMoney Op-Ed: An alternative to the student debt crisis
CNNMoney Op-Ed: An alternative to the student debt crisis

The price of a college education rose faster than inflation, again.

The increase in average tuition and fees charged by public and private colleges rose between 2.9% and 3.6% this year, according to The College Board's annual report. Meanwhile, inflation remains at about 2%.

The average annual price rose by $300 at public four-year colleges for in-state students and by $800 at private colleges.

"There are several factors driving the increase in prices," said Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University.

A majority of a college's costs are related to employees, and their health care and benefits also continue to get more expensive, he said.

Kelchen also points to cuts in state funding as a factor that affects public colleges. In Vermont and New Hampshire, where in-state tuition is the highest in the country, state and local funding is less than half the national average, The College Board said.

But not every state is cutting funding for higher education. New York, Oregon, Tennessee, and Rhode Island have recently expanded aid to make college tuition free for some residents.

Tuition "discounts" are likely another factor driving up the price of published tuition and fees, Kelchen said. Colleges are offering more financial aid to some students so that they meet enrollment targets.

While this can drive up the cost for families who are paying full price, a majority of students receive some financial aid.

The College Board takes that into account to measure the net price of college, deducting the average grant aid and tax benefits families receive.

Related: Why your financial aid award is less than expected

The average student received more grant aid than last year, but not enough to keep up with the increase in price. The net price also continues to rise faster than inflation, The College Board said.

But even the net price doesn't truly reflect the entire burden on families. It leaves out the cost of books, transportation, health insurance and other expenses students have while in college. The net price is also calculated by including tax credits which don't usually reach families until after tuition bills are due -- if they claim them, Kelchen said.

Related: The first New Yorkers go to college tuition-free

Here are the 2017-2018 prices of tuition, fees, and room and board by the type of school.

Private colleges

Average published price: $46,950

Average net price: $26,740

Public, four-year colleges

Average published price for in-state students: $20,770

Average net price for in-state students: $14,940

Public, two-year colleges

Average published price for in-state students: $11,970

Average net price for in-state students: $8,070*

*The average student receives enough money from grants and tax benefits to cover the full published cost of tuition and fees, which is $3,570 this year. The remaining cost is for room and board.

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