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College Tuition Increases Once Again Exceed Inflation

For the eighth consecutive year, the price of a college education will increase faster than inflation, according to a newly-released report of the College Board.

In its annual survey of college costs, the College Board found that college tuition charges will rise an average of 7 percent this fall, and that costs at four-year private institutions will jump to $7693 on average, up 9 percent from last year.

Harvard's tuition for 1988-89 will rise by 6.5 percent to $18,210. While Harvard was the nation's second most expensive college last year, the survey lists its tutition as the seventh highest this year.

The College Board's survey of 2469 colleges nationwide also shows that tuition costs at four-year public colleges and universities will rise by five percent to an average of $1 566.

Federal government spokesmen estimate that the nation's inflation rate, as measured by the Consumer Price Index(CPI), will be 4.3 percent this year and 3.9percent in 1989.

The news that tuition costs nationwide willonce again outpace inflation has renewed thedebate between the Administration and the highereducation community over who's to blame for thesoaring tuitions.

In previous years, Secretary of EducationWilliam J. Bennett has blasted the nation'scolleges and universities for being "greedy" andfor encouraging their students to apply forfederal grants and loans to offset tuition hikes.

The higher education community, on the otherhand, has traditionally responded to Bennett'scharges by blaming the Reagan Administration forseeking to slash federal funds for student aidover the past several years and for shifting theaid burden from grants to loans.

One Administration official who is a frequentcritic of colleges for their soaring tuitions sayshe is disappointed, but hardly surprised, by thelatest news.

"This news is no news," said DeputyUndersecretary of Education Bruce M. Carnes. "Idon't see any end [to the spiraling tuition] insight."

"There is a direct linkage between the cost ofa college and the amount of student aidavailable," Carnes said. "The function of asubsidy is to keep prices up."

Carnes also echoed statements by David W.Breneman, president of Kalamazoo College, whoearlier this year charged that the nation's 100most expensive and selective universities increasetheir tuitions to maintain an elite status andthus enlarge their applicant pools. Brenemanadmitted that he was following the pack himself.

"There's a perception that if [a school] costsa lot, it must be good," Carnes said.

However, higher education officials inWashington challenged Carnes' assertions, sayingthat the increasing college costs reflect a needto keep faculty salaries competitive and higherprices for library and other materials. Theyargued that since the cost of the goods andservices colleges and universities purchase (theso-called "Higher Education Price Index") aregenerally higher than the nationwide CPI tuitionhikes are bound to exceed inflation.

"First of all, the correct measure is not theCPI," said Julianne Still Thrift, executivevice-president of the National Association ofIndependent Colleges and Universities.

"I'm sick and tired of commenting on this,"said Charles Saunders, vice president forgovernmental relations for the American Council onEducation (ACE). "I'm tired of having to respondto Bennett."

"His figures are phony," Saunders said. "Hetotals all student aid and doesn't distinguishbetween loans and grants.