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Posted at 12:34 PM ET, 02/14/2011

A trend toward smaller tuition hikes?

By Daniel de Vise

Several colleges have announced minimal tuition increases for the 2011-12 academic year, following a recent trend toward smaller tuition bumps in an academy increasingly concerned about price.

George Washington University trustees last week approved a 2.9-percent tuition increase for incoming undergraduates and capped the total cost-of-attendance increase at 2.7 percent.

GWU's board also reaffirmed the unusual 2004 initiative that holds tuition at a set rate for five years, more or less locking students in at the tuition they pay as freshmen.

Tuition for 2011 undergraduate students will be $44,148 annually for up to five years, provided they remain in good academic standing.

It's noteworthy that both GWU and Georgetown University have inched down the dreaded list of most expensive colleges in the past few years, which is what happens when you pitch your tuition increases a point or two lower than peer institutions.

Tuition is rising about 4.5 percent a year in the higher education industry as a whole. Surveys and studies consistently show college sticker prices are rising more slowly now (since the Great Recession) than at most times in the past 20 years. Aid is rising faster than price, which means the net price of college (tuition minus aid) is actually declining a bit. Fifty-thousand-dollar price tags suggest otherwise, but the truth is that college does not cost more to the average student now than five years ago.

Stanford University trustees approved a 3.5-percent increase in total undergraduate charges, including living expenses, for 2011-12. The "comprehensive" fee will reach $52,341, including $40,050 in tuition.

Closer in, Marymount University in Virginia reports a 2.5-percent tuition increase, its lowest in at least a decade. Undergraduate tuition and fees for 2011-12 will total $23,700.

I haven't heard from any other colleges. I see from the wires, though, that tuition at Brown is up a 3.5 percent for 2011-12.

And in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he will oppose any increase in tuition at the state's public universities.

By Daniel de Vise  | February 14, 2011; 12:34 PM ET
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Comments

This will have unexpected consequences. As colleges rely less on tuition and more on other sources of revenue, pressure on faculty to obtian research grants will increase. We will have even more of a "publish or perish" imperative and less emphasis on teaching. Class sizes will increase and more classes will be taught by graduate students. We have to face reality. It costs big bucks to hire people with Ph.D.'s to give live lectures and to heat large stone building with ivy covered exteriors. That money has to come from somewhere. Or we have to switch to a model of remote teaching by a smaller number of outstanding faculty. Then we have to figure out how to find jobs for all those laid off Ph.D.'s.

Posted by: taxguru | February 15, 2011 11:32 AM | Report abuse

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