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The next inflation-driven worry: Rising college tuition

Colleges and universities across the country are taking steps to fortify their revenue and resume their pre-pandemic patterns of annual tuition increases. The price hikes, for the most part, do not appear to be as high as the overall national inflation rate measured at 8.5 percent in July. For many students and parents, that means significantly higher college bills in the fall term. The pocketbook bite, felt all the more keenly alongside higher prices for groceries, gas and rent, is sowing fresh fears about the affordability of higher education. Some schools continue to freeze tuition, but freezes limit revenue that could be used for financial aid. “The money has to come from somewhere,” says an economist at Wellesley College who has studied higher-education pricing

Average tuition and fees inched up 1.2 percent for public universities in 2020 and 1.6 percent in 2021. Those were the lowest increases, in percentage terms, since the 1970s. Nationally, prices had remained nearly flat at the start of the pandemic as colleges scrambled to maintain enrollment. Schools face higher costs for utilities, supplies and food; they are also under pressure to raise salaries to avoid losing faculty or staff to more lucrative jobs. Building maintenance, renovation and new construction are also more expensive now than colleges had planned. At the University of Maryland, an increase of 2.5 percent in tuition and. fees for state residents was outpaced by a 9 percent jump in room and board. At Georgetown University,

George Mason University, in Northern Virginia, joined U-Va. in raising its price. Its in-state tuition and fees rose 2.2 percent, to about $13,400. Purdue announced a price freeze in 2013 and has kept to that policy ever since. Out-of-state students, who pay higher rates, account for nearly half of entering freshmen, a larger share than a decade ago. Federal data shows the share of Purdue freshmen whose family incomes were low enough to qualify for Pell grants was 14 percent in 2020-21 school year, down from 19 percent in 2013-14. At George Mason, the university also imposes fees for certain programs, including engineering and computer science, popular at Purdue, cost an additional $2,050.