The cost of attending college continued to outpace inflation in the past year, as tuition and fees increased while financial aid failed to keep up, the College Board reported Wednesday.
The nonprofit's annual Trends in Higher Education report painted a mixed picture on the affordability of a college degree, noting that overall costs were increasing at a moderate pace historically and student borrowing is continuing to decline.
But it expressed concern about "dramatic increases in published tuition and fees over time, as well as increases in net tuition and fees in the past few years."
The report found that average tuition and fees for full-time in-state students at public four-year colleges and universities increased 2.9 percent from September 2014 to September 2015, rising from $9,145 to $9,410. The overall inflation rate was flat over that period.
Over time, the increase has been even more dramatic, the report said. Tuition and fees on average were 40 percent higher in 2015-16 at public four-year institutions than in 2005-06, 29 percent higher at two-year public colleges and 26 percent higher at private four-year not-for-profit universities, the report said.
Student borrowing continues to be high by historic standards, but represents "a retreat from the soaring debt levels of a few years ago," it said. Total education loan volume declined by 6 percent in 2014-15, and was 14 percent lower than in 2010-11. Average federal loans per undergraduate student also declined by 6 percent in 2014-15 over the same period.
The report noted that certain groups remain especially vulnerable to defaulting on student loans: "Older, independent students, those who take longer to earn their degrees, African-American students, and those who attend for-profit institutions accumulate more debt than others."