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The average sticker price at community colleges rose this year to $3,130, which is a 5.8 percent increase—about $172.
But that’s not what average full-time community college students pay. In fact, they receive enough funding through federal tax benefits and grant aid to cover tuition and fees, with an extra $1,220 to cover other college-related expenses. That’s according to the College Board’s "2012 Trends in College Pricing" report, which was released on Wednesday.
On average, the published tuition and fees at community colleges increased from $2,959 in 2012-12, to $3,131 this year. But full-time students at public two-year colleges receive on average about $4,350 in grant aid from all sources and federal tax benefits. That means some students have some extra money to cover costs such as books, supplies, transportation, child care and other expenses, which for the average two-year college commuter total more than $5,000.
This trend in the average net price for community college students is not new. In fact, student aid and other benefits have more than covered average tuition and fees for full-time students at community colleges since 2008-09, according to the College Board report.
Download the College Board's "2012 Trends in Student Aid" report
Of course, college costs vary across regions and states. Over the past five years, changes in inflation-adjusted tuition and fees at community colleges ranged from a decline of 3 percent in Maine (minus $103 in 2012 dollars) and an increase of 1 percent in Montana ($32), to increases of 49 percent in Virginia ($1,367) and 104 percent in California ($722). Even with the substantial increase, California still has the lowest prices in the country at $1,418, the College Board says.
Increases in tuition and fees at other higher education institutions were lower, but those colleges and universities still cost much more than community colleges. In-state tuition and fees at public four-year colleges increased 4.8 percent—or $399—from $8,256 to $8,655, according to the report.
A look at enrollment
The College Board report looks at other institutional data, from revenues and expenditures to student migration. One area where it focused on community colleges was enrollment. Four states—California, Texas, Florida and New York—enroll one-third of all full-time equivalent (FTE) students attending a public college or university. These states enroll 29 percent of four-year and 36 percent of two-year public students, according to the report.
In six states—Mississippi, Arizona, Iowa, Illinois, Wyoming and California—more than half of public FTE enrollments are in public two-year colleges. Eighteen states have community college enrollments higher than the national average of 40 percent.
The College Board notes that the balance between two-year and four-year college enrollments changed substantially over the decade in some states. In Indiana, Kentucky, Maine and West Virginia—where enrollments in two-year colleges more than doubled over 10 years—growth in public four-year enrollment was below the national average.
FTE enrollments in public two-year colleges declined over the decade in Alaska, Florida, Nevada, North Dakota and Washington, all of which had higher than average growth among four-year institutions. With the exception of Alaska—where only 2 percent of FTE students are enrolled in community colleges—all of the states saw some two-year colleges reclassified as four-year colleges between 2000-10.
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