Statement by NAICU President David L. Warren on the College Board’s College Pricing and Student Aid Reports

October 26, 2011

For the third consecutive year, the College Board's college price report, like NAICU's tuition survey results released in June, shows an increase in published tuition and fees at private nonprofit colleges and universities in the mid-4-percent range. (The College Board reports a 4.5 percent increase for 2011-12; NAICU reported 4.6 percent.) This is down from an average annual increase of 6 percent during the 10 years preceding the economic downturn. The percentage increases in the past three years are among the lowest since 1972, the first year for which NAICU has data. 

According to recent NAICU surveys, institutionally provided student aid at private nonprofit colleges increased 7 percent (2011-12), 6.8 percent (2010-09), and 9 percent (2009-10) in the last three years. Nevertheless, affording a college degree is a growing challenge for American families. Private colleges are working hard to stay affordable for students from all backgrounds, and to remain the best higher education value for millions of families. More institutions are introducing creative measures to reduce students' out-of-pocket costs, including three-year bachelor's degrees, tuition freezes and cuts, programs that replace loans with grants, programs that match the price of local state universities, and other initiatives.

According to the College Board, inflation-adjusted net tuition and fees (published tuition and fees minus all grant aid and federal higher education tax benefits) at private nonprofit colleges actually dropped by 4.1 percent, from 2006-07 to 2011-12. In 2011-12, net tuition and fees at private nonprofit colleges average $12,970, compared to average published tuition and fees of $28,500.

A sharp increase in student financial need in recent years, along with cost drivers that typically increase faster than inflation - employee health care, utilities, insurance premiums, and information technology - all contribute to rising tuition. Health-care premiums for college employees, for instance, increased by 7.3 percent last year, according to the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources. Institutional fund raising and endowments have not yet returned to their pre-recession levels.

Beyond the immediate steps they took to cut administrative and staff costs when the financial crisis first hit, private colleges are working strategically to cut costs and operate more efficiently over the long term, while protecting their academic core. More institutions are consolidating administrative units and flattening bureaucratic structures. They are expanding consortial activities with other institutions in their regions and states, to reduce administrative and academic redundancies, enhance efficiency, and better serve students.

Through innovative consumer affordability measures and long-term institutional cost management initiatives, private colleges are working hard to keep net tuition as low as possible, and remain a great higher education value.

NAICU serves as the unified national voice of independent higher education. With more than 1,000 member institutions and associations, NAICU reflects the diversity of private nonprofit higher education in the United States. NAICU members enroll 90 percent of all students attending private institutions. They include traditional liberal arts colleges, major research universities, church- and faith-related institutions, historically black colleges, Hispanic-serving institutions, single-sex colleges, art institutions, two-year colleges, and schools of law, medicine, engineering, business, and other professions.