College tuitions are no longer increasing with the speed of a runaway train (or one of those shiny Japanese bullet trains), according to a newly released report. Last year, fees for public four-year institutions went up by 2.9%, the smallest observed increase in the past three decades. Private institutions saw their rates jump by 3.8%.
Good news? That depends on whether you thought last year's tuition was perfectly reasonable. But this small increase comes after tuition hikes of 4.5% and 8.5%.
From USA Today:
"This does not mean that college is suddenly more affordable," says economist Sandy Baum, co-author of Trends in Higher Education reports on tuition and financial aid, released by the non-profit College Board. "It does seem that the (upward tuition) spiral is moderating. Not turning around, not ending, but moderating."
But despite the ever-rising costs, enrollment hasn't decreased. A college degree is non-negotiable in the current job market. Workers with a bachelor's degree make more than double those possessing only a high school diploma, according to the College Board.
While even steep increases in tuition haven't necessarily meant more out-of-pocket costs for students — an infusion of grant aid and financial assistance helped offset the burden — federal grants have dipped in recent years, falling from a high of $51 billion in 2008-2009 to $46 billion in the 2011-2012 academic year. This means that even these modest increases will fall more squarely on the shoulders of students than they did before.
But there is some good news for poor students. You might not even be given the option of assuming massive amounts of debt to attend the nation's most elite schools. The university might make that decision for you, as George Washington University was recently accused of doing, by rejecting you for lack of material resources before you can sign your first promissory note.