College tuition hikes lowest since 1970s

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — For the last two years, the cost of public college tuition has posted the smallest increases since the 1970s, according to new data.

In-state tuition at public four-year colleges averaged $9,139 for the current school year, according to The College Board. That’s up 2.9% from the year before, and comes on the heels of a 2.8% jump last year.

But public schools have logged tuition hikes of more than 3% in every other year since the 1974 school year.

The slowdown comes as state governments restore funding to public schools, said Jennfer Ma, a co-author of the report. That funding was cut dramatically around the financial crisis of 2008, sending tuition skyrocketing.

Tuition hikes at private non-profit schools also slowed to 3.7% this year. That’s the smallest hike since 1974, with the exception of the year 2000, when private tuition climbed 3.6%.

The average price at private schools is $32,231 for the current school year.

Of course, college is still getting more expensive, but many students pay much less than the sticker price. Grants and tax credits that students don’t have to pay back can help cut college costs significantly.

The report found that on average students from families with incomes below $30,000 received enough grant aid to cover all tuition and fee costs, with about $2,300 left over to use for room, board and books.

Some more good news: Students are borrowing less, according to The College Board. The total amount students borrowed fell by 13% for the past three years.

That follows an 18% increase between 2007 and 2011.

One reason is the decline in enrollment at for-profit schools where students tend to borrow more, Ma said.

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