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Education Department Releases New Data on College Costs


US News & World Report - June 13, 2012 - by Catherine Groux

As more college graduates find themselves in an overwhelming amount of debt, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) has made it a priority to bring more transparency to college costs. In doing so, the department hopes students will better understand how much their education will cost them, as well as their many options for paying for it.

Recently, the DOE announced in a press release that it has updated several lists on its College Affordability and Transparency Center website. These lists outline the schools with the highest and lowest tuition and net price, and allow students to compare the total cost of several institutions.

The lists were created under the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 and supported by the Obama Administration. According to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, providing this type of data is critical.

"We want to arm students and parents with the information they need to make smart educational choices," Duncan said in a statement. "Students need to know up front how much college will actually cost them instead of waiting to find out when the first student loan bill arrives. These lists are a major step forward in unraveling the mystery of higher education pricing."

The new data shows that tuition costs at public four-year schools climbed by 15% between 2008 and 2010, while public two-year colleges saw a price leap of 16.6%. Still, this does not mean there are no affordable options for earning a bachelor's or associate's degree. The website indicates that tuition at West Virginia University at Parkersburg is only $2,076, while Florida's Palm Beach State College charges students only $2,158 in tuition. For associate's degree seekers, two of the most affordable schools are California's Barstow Community College and San Joaquin Delta College, which boast a tuition rate of $624.

Despite these affordable options, the rising cost of college has been a hot topic, as countless political figures have stressed the need for more degree holders. Duncan reiterated this fact earlier this week with the release of the DOE's new data.

"As a nation, we need more college graduates in order to stay competitive in the global economy," Duncan said, as quoted by CBS. "But if the costs keep on rising, especially at a time when family incomes are hurting, college will become increasingly unaffordable for the middle class."