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Report: Weak economy slows tuition hikes

High school seniors, particularly those affected by superstorm

High school seniors, particularly those affected by superstorm Sandy, are invited to attend a free college application event Adelphi University. Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

The skyrocketing growth of college tuition is slowing in the face of a weak economy and tough job market, Moody's Investors Service said in a report Thursday.

Nearly half of 292 colleges and universities that responded to Moody's national survey also reported that fewer students enrolled last fall than the previous year.

"The cumulative effects of years of depressed family income and net worth, as well as uncertain job prospects for many recent graduates, are combining to soften student market demand at current tuition prices," the report said.

Since the financial crisis of 2008, growing numbers of young people have been going to more affordable community colleges, studying part time or even skipping college as they scrutinize the value of education.

Moody's concluded that institutions of higher learning were losing their pricing power as families and students become more sensitive to tuition hikes that for years have outpaced inflation.

Lower costs at public universities have given those institutions greater pricing power relative to their private peers. In New York, the annual $4,350 baccalaureate tuition at the State University of New York didn't budge from 2003 to '07. Since then it has increased by 28 percent to $5,570.

Tuition increases at private colleges have slowed since the recession, the report said. At the same time, many of those institutions have increased student aid.

Adelphi University in Garden City increased its student aid package at a faster rate than it increased tuition for its incoming freshman class in 2012.

Tuition rose for the incoming freshman class last fall by 3 percent to $29,320 compared to $28,460, a spokeswoman said. Meantime, the average freshman aid package rose 6.2 percent to $13,675 from $12,880.

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