Tuition Increase Outpaces Inflation

Tuition and fees at four-year colleges continue to grow faster than inflation

Tuition hikes at American four-year public and private colleges have slowed to a six-year low but continue to outpace inflation by more than two percent, according to the College Board’s annual report on college pricing released yesterday.

The average growth in tuition and fees among four-year private colleges was 5.9 percent—two percent factoring inflation—for the 2006-2007 school year, amounting to an average $22,218 according to the report.

Harvard’s tuition increase, announced in March, came in below the average at 4.75 percent growth. Tuition for the 2006-2007 school year is $33,709 per student. Scholarship money grant grew by 6.2 percent this year.

This is the smallest national increase in tuition in the last six years, despite the fact that tuition has risen 35 percent over the past five years. In the same period, Harvard’s tuition increased by 26 percent.

The report also noted that federal student aid was smaller than in previous years when adjusted for inflation.

“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,” College Board President Gaston Caperton said, according to a press release.

The director of financial aid at Harvard was traveling and could not be reached for comment.

Harvard introduced its Financial Aid Initiative (HFAI) in 2004, which eliminated tuition payments for families making less than $40,000 a year and reduced costs significantly for families earning between $40,000 and $60,000—thresholds that were raised to $60,000 and $80,000 respectively this past March.

According to figures released by the Office of Admissions earlier this year, 360 members of the Class of 2009 were benefiting from HFAI.

Harvard College’s current annual price tag amounts to nearly two-thirds of the median household income in the United States, which was $65,093 in 2006 according to the US Census Bureau. In 1970, Harvard cost $4,070, which was less than half of the median family income, then $9,870.

At four-year public colleges, fees grew an average of 6.3 percent—2.4 percent when adjusted for inflation—to reach $5,836.

Last year, college students received a grand total of $134.8 billion in financial aid from various sources, according to the College Board.

The report focused on tuition and fees, which the College Board estimates to make up 67 percent of the average college student’s expenditure, not taking into account other expenses such as room and board.

—Staff writer Cyrus M. Mossavar-Rahmani can be reached at crahmani@fas.harvard.edu