Tuition up from coast to coast

The cost of college this year rose faster than the rate of inflation at universities across the nation, climbing 6.6 percent for four-year public schools.

The cost of college this year rose faster than the rate of inflation at universities across the nation, climbing 6.6 percent for four-year public schools. At Portland State, tuition and fee charges also rose faster than inflation, by a total of 10.6 percent, and at a faster rate than the national average.

Fee increases caused the 2007-08 cost of college at PSU to drastically increase, raising educational expenses slightly more so than did tuition. PSU fees skyrocketed by $169.50, or 13 percent, over 2006-07, while tuition costs rose by $384, or 9.8 percent, for undergraduate resident students taking 15 credits at PSU.

The cost of college is paid for in two parts: tuition and fees. Tuition pays for services such as professor salaries and general university operations. Fees pay for supplementary services, such as health centers and all student activities.

Tuition and fees at PSU are now $5,764.50 for students taking 15 credits, up $553.50 from 2006-07. The latest increases, reported this week by the College Board, bring the national average list price of four-year public universities to $6,185 this year, up $381 from last year, at a comparable credit level.

A $35 increase in the student incidental fee and a $15 increase in the technology fee each term were the main causes of the fee increase at PSU. The student incidental fee pays for all student groups, including The Vanguard and athletics.

For all Oregon universities, the average tuition and fee increase also grew faster than the national average. Over 2006-07, tuition and fees increased by 7 percent, or $372, on average in the Oregon University System, according to numbers provided by the College Board.

The published price is not the actual cost to many students, thanks to financial aid, but the net price is rising. Accounting for grants and tax breaks, the average net price for full-time students at four-year public universities this year is $2,580. That’s about $160 more than last year.

To make up the difference, students typically borrow as much as is allowed by the federal government, but then turn to private student loans. A decade ago, nonfederal loans accounted for about 6 percent of student aid, but last year accounted for 24 percent.

The rate of growth in private borrowing slowed last year. But that was at least partly because of new rules allowing graduate students to take out PLUS loans from the federal government, reducing their need for private loans. For undergraduates, private borrowing still rose by 12 percent last year, to $14.5 billion.

Public two-year colleges-which currently educate about half of American college students-again received the best marks for keeping a lid on price increases. Their average prices rose 4.2 percent to $2,361. Accounting for aid, their average net cost is only $320 per year.

The solution to the increasing cost of college, and the rising piles of student debt, could be on the horizon. Di Saunders, director of communications for the Oregon University System, said new legislation should double the average Oregon Opportunity award for students.

The total award money given in Oregon Opportunity grants, a need-based award, could increase by about $20 million this year or next year, Saunders said.

“I mean, you’re really bringing college into the affordability level,” Saunders said.

Average tuition and fees of seven Oregon universities at 15 credits2007-08: $5,9482006-07: $5,576$372 more per year7 percent increase

PSU tuition and fees at 15 credits2007-08: $5,764.50 2006-07: $5,211$553.50 more per year10.6 percent increase

PSU tuition at 15 credits2007-08: $4,314 2006-07: $3,930$384 more per year9.8 percent increase

PSU fees at 15 credits2007-08: $1,450.502006-07: $1,281$169.50 more per year13 percent increase