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To:                   Presidents/Chancellors and Government Relations Officers
From:               Ed Elmendorf, Dan Hurley, & Lesley McBain, AASCU Government Relations
Subject:           Analysis & Resources: 2010 College Board College Pricing and Student Aid Reports

Yesterday the College Board released its annual Trends in College Pricing (
PDF) and Student Aid (PDF) reports, which provide valuable and timely information on the cost, access to and affordability of postsecondary education in the United States. These reports show that even in a still-uncertain economic climate, students can obtain an affordable, quality higher education—especially at AASCU institutions.

Public colleges and universities nationwide depend on states’ commitment to higher education for operating funds. Partly due to the long-term decline in state appropriations to higher education and a lackluster economy, public institutions have been forced to increase tuition and fees, while making difficult academic and staffing decisions—including furloughing or laying off staff and faculty alike. Trends in College Pricing 2010 reports that average state appropriations per $1,000 of personal income declined from $9.70 in 1989-90, to $8.20 in 1990-91, and to $6.60 in 2009-10 (see 50-state chart here). Moreover, when federal stimulus monies to states are not included, overall state funding for higher education in 2009-10 was only $6.30 per $1,000 of personal income.

Other valuable state- and national-level data from Trends in College Pricing is available
here. Also, The Chronicle of Higher Education has implemented an interactive tool based on College Board tuition and fee data that allows the public to compare tuition and fees at individual public and private institutions over time from 1999 to the present.

While the report highlights that the average increase in tuition and fees at a public four-year institution was 7.9%, this increase only resulted in an average jump of $555. In contrast, private, not-for-profit four-year colleges and universities’ average increase was 4.5%, which, however, translates to a $1,164 increase in tuition and fees—more than double the public four-year amount.

Trends in Student Aid 2010 also tells us that at public colleges and universities, from 1999-2000 to 2009-10, the increase in institutional grants meeting financial need was much more rapid—from 28 percent to 42 percent of total institutional discounts. In addition, about 27 percent of full-time public four-year college students attend institutions with published prices of less than $6,000 per year, and nearly 38 percent attend institutions with tuition and fees under $9,000 per year. These students, making up nearly two-thirds of all public students, are predominantly enrolled at AASCU institutions. 

Even with constantly declining state support, public colleges and universities are making financial commitments to help needy students attend their institutions. In fact, according to Trends in Student Aid, full-time students at public four-year institutions receive about $6,100 on average from all grant aid sources and federal tax benefits. Moreover, grant aid covered all of tuition and fees for low-income dependent students enrolled in both two- and four-year (in-state) colleges in 2007-08. This illustrates why “sticker price” is an unreliable gauge of what students and parents actually pay for college.

Of particular note, according to Trends in College Pricing, is that the estimated average “net price” (what students/parents pay after financial aid has been subtracted from the published price), including room and board costs, only increased by about $600 at public four-year institutions between 2005-06 and 2010-11. Estimated average net tuition and fee costs are actually lower in the public sector and private nonprofit four-year sector compared to five years ago.

As our country faces increasing challenges in the global marketplace, it is imperative that we continue to prepare our students—the future American workforce—for global, not just local, competition. Access to college is integral to this preparation. The Trends data highlight how AASCU member institutions are fulfilling their mission to provide a quality public college education at an affordable cost. This is reflected in the historically lower tuition and fee increases they charge compared to all other public four-year colleges and universities and a correspondingly lower increase in net price. In order to facilitate the educational and workforce goals laid out by the Obama Administration, AASCU will continue its advocacy for increased public support for higher education as a public policy priority.

For more information on the Trends reports or other analyses, please feel free to contact Lesley McBain, Senior Research and Policy Analyst, at (202) 478-7831 or at


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