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Study: Out-of-Pocket Costs in Most of Higher Education Rising

December 4, 2013

Students during the 2011-12 academic year paid, on average, higher immediate out-of-pocket costs to attend public and private colleges than their counterparts in 2007-8, according to a new federal report released Tuesday.

The average out-of-pocket net price -- a college’s sticker price minus all forms of financial aid -- increased by $800 at both private not-for-profit and public four-year universities, after adjusting for inflation. At community colleges, the same figure rose by $400.

The for-profit sector was the only one to see a decrease between 2011-12 and 2007-8. Across all for-profit institutions, the average out-of-pocket net price fell from $11,500 to $9,900 in inflation-adjusted dollars. Still, the average out-of-pocket net price at two-year for-profit institutions ($12,400) was more than double the figure at two-year public institutions ($6,000) in 2011-12. 

The out-of-pocket net price essentially represents the amount of money a student has to pay up front while attending college. It doesn’t include the value of loans that have to be repaid or the long-term cost of such debt.  The data come from the Education Department’s latest National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, which is completed every four years. 

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Michael Stratford

Michael Stratford, Reporter, covers federal policy for Inside Higher Ed. He joined the publication in August 2013 after a stint covering the Arkansas state legislature for The Associated Press. He previously worked and interned at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine and The Chronicle of Higher Education. At The Chronicle, he wrote about federal policy and covered higher education issues in the 2012 elections. Michael grew up in Belmont, Mass. and graduated from Cornell University, where he was managing editor of The Cornell Daily Sun.

Follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/mstratford.

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