January 15, 1997

Michigan tuition increases below national average . . . and Wayne State tuition increases below Michigan average.

Tuition and fees at colleges nationwide rose about 5 percent on average for 1996-97, the lowest rate of increase in at least 20 years, according to a study by the American Council on Education (ACE).

Average prices for full-time students at public four-year colleges and universities rose by $155, from $2,811 to $2,966. At private four-year colleges, prices jumped $607, from $12,216 to $12,823.

Room and board charges at all institutions went up about 4 percent to 6 percent for the year.

Meanwhile, tuition at Michigan colleges and universities rose at slower pace than the national average. The Michigan Legislature's House Fiscal Agency reports that the statewide average for tuition at public universities rose by 3.6 percent this fall, about 1.4 percent behind the national average.

Wayne State University's tuition increase, at an average 3 percent, was slightly below the Michigan average.

WSU's increase for an average full-time undergraduate Michigan resident was $112.50 for the year over 1996, compared to the national average of $155. The total one-year tuition for an average undergraduate who takes 31 credit hours is $3,549.50, plus a $72 registration fee per semester.

WSU has followed a policy of tuition restraint since 1983. Between 1983 and 1996, WSU tuition increases cumulatively were the lowest among Michigan public universities. During this 13-year period, WSU increased its tuition by 81.7 percent while other Michigan public universities showed an average increase of 144 percent.

When the tuition increases at WSU over the period 1983 to 1996 are adjusted for inflation, the real increase is 5.3 percent over the 13-year period.

Tuition increases at universities nationwide have come under increasing scrutiny- and increasing criticism- in recent years, partly due to misunderstandings.

A telephone survey of 1,000 adults conducted last summer by ACE indicates that the public continues to believe that college costs are higher than they actually are.

ACE reports that their survey shows, "In every higher education sector, respondents overstated tuition costs by $3,000 to $6,000."

Terry W. Hartle, ACE vice president for governmental relations, says, "Undoubtedly, the public overestimates the price of college tuition for a variety of reasons. But the poor public understanding of the average annual cost of attending a college means that stories in the media that focus on high tuition prices find a very receptive audience."

The council warned that misconceptions about college costs might lead families to assume incorrectly that they cannot afford to send their children to college.

ACE's Hartle suggested that college officials need to do a better job of communicating with the public about issues related to tuition.


Robert Wartner
Phone: (313) 577-2150
Email: rwartner@wayne.edu

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