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Inflation-adjusted college tuition falls after costs frozen amid pandemic

Masked students sit at a cafe on the Saint Louis University campus in St. Louis in August 2020. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
Masked students sit at a cafe on the Saint Louis University campus in St. Louis in August 2020. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 24 (UPI) -- Inflation-adjusted tuition prices fell for the 2022-2023 academic year after costs were frozen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report from College Board.

Average published tuition and fees declined across the board from two-year schools to four-year public and private colleges, the College Board said Monday.

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The nonprofit organization, which administers standardized tests and provides tools and resources for the college admissions process, also tracks trends in college tuition and student aid.

The report found that tuition at public two-year colleges averaged at $3,860 for this school year, an increase of $60 from the 2021-2022 academic year. That amount represents an increase of just 1.6% before adjusting for inflation.

In-state tuition at public four-year colleges rose $190 to $10,940, an increase of 1.8%, while out-of-state tuition rose $620 to $28,240 -- an increase of 2.2% before adjusting for inflation, the report said.

Tuition at private universities rose an average of $1,330 to $39,400, an increase of 2.5% year-over-year.

"After adjusting for inflation, all of these one-year percent changes are negative," the report reads. The report used a 4.7% inflation rate in 2021 and an 8.3% inflation rate for the first eight months of 2022 in its adjustments.

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College Board noted that the total estimated budget for full-time students, including room and board as well as books and transportation, ranged from $19,230 at two-year schools to $57,570 for private universities.

The net price of attending college, which takes the cost of tuition and subtracts scholarships and grants, was also lower after adjusting for inflation.

This academic year also marked the first time since 2009 that first-time, full-time students at public two-year colleges have received enough grant money on average to cover their tuition and fees.

"After the start of the pandemic, a significant number of colleges froze tuition for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 academic years. Despite the effort to keep tuition flat, many institutions, and especially two-year colleges, experienced declines in enrollment," the report reads.

"In 2022-23, we continue to see historically low increases in published tuition and fees in the public sectors and moderate increases in published tuition and fees in the private nonprofit four-year sector."

Jennifer Ma, senior policy research scientist at College Board and co-author of the report, called the report "welcome news for families and students" in comments to CNBC.

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