College Costs Rise...But Less

The high cost of a college education is still getting higher, but the increase in tuition and fees for the current school year was the smallest in four years, according to a report released Tuesday by the College Board.

The Board's annual study reports that costs for the 1999-2000 college year have increased by less than 5 percent nationwide in both four-year and two-year public and private institutions.

Students and their families can thank a thriving economy, brimming state coffers, a vigorous stock market boosting endowments and efforts by schools to rein in costs, experts said.

Appearing on CBS This Morning, Gaston Caperton, the president of the College Board, said it's also important to remember the long-term value of a college education.

He says someone who has gone to college will earn a million dollars more over a lifetime than someone who hasn't. "The investment in a college education is really worth a lot."

The survey found the average undergraduate at a four-year public school in their home state pays $3,356, or $109 more for the 1999-2000 school year than last year, a 3.4 percent increase.

The price hike was much higher at a four-year private school. The average student there paid $15,380, or $671 more this school year than last, a 4.6 percent rise.

Costs of two-year public schools were $1,627, or $73 more, a 4.7 percent increase; and at private two-year schools $7,182, for a rise of $242, or 3.5 percent.

Students paying out-of-state or out-of-district charges did better. On average, the survey found, they paid $8,706 at four-year schools, $235 or 3 percent more. At two-year schools the average increase was a tiny 2 percent rise, or $89, to $4,818.

Similar increases were seen in the costs of living on-campus. Students at four-year private colleges this year are paying an average of $5,959, a $205 increase, or 3.6 percent over last year.

At a four-year public school, room and board this year averages $4,730, or $208 more, a 4.6 percent rise. At a private, two-year college it averages $4,583, a $210 hike, or 4.8 percent more than last year.

Caperton says too many parents -- particularly those who haven't gone to college themselves, or who live in neighborhoods where not many children go to college -- think that a college education is unattainable because of costs.

"But that's just not true," he says, "because of all the financial aid that is available and the big return you get when you get to college Â… Anybody can borrow or work to get the money to go to college."
And more people than ever are borrowing to finance their college education, a second College Board study found. There was a record $64 billion in financial aid last year, most of it in the form of student loans – 85 percent more than a decade ago, after figuring for inflation.

More of these students are also repaying their loans.

The default rate on government tudent loans has dropped to the lowest point since the federal government began tracking them more than a decade ago, according to U.S. Education Secretary Richard Riley.

Figures prepared for release Monday show the default rate slipped for the seventh consecutive year, dipping to 8.8 percent in 1997, the most recent year studied.

"This new rate exceeds our expectations,'' said Riley, who credited responsible student borrowers, schools, underwriters and lenders, a crackdown on debtors and the boon of a robust economy with its plentiful jobs.

The College Board, probably best known for administering the SAT college entrance exams, is a membership organization of high schools, colleges and universities that promotes higher education.