Tuition, room and board increase in private and public schools, while three-quarters of students receive financial aid, according to an annual report.

By Keisha Lamothe, staff writer

NEW YORK ( -- The average total cost of a private four-year college rose to $32,307 for the current school year, but the rate of increase has slowed compared to public school prices, according to a report released Monday.

Excluding room and board costs, average published tuition fees at a private four-year college in 2007-08 climbed 6.3 percent year over year to $23,712, according to the College Board, a non-profit association of more than 5,200 schools, colleges and universities.

Total charges for four-year public schools, including room and board, increased 5.9 percent to $13,589. Published tuition prices for full time in-state students at public four-year institutions and universities rose to $6,185 (up $381, or 6.6 percent) and $2,361 at public two-year colleges (up $95, or 4.2 percent).

In 2006-07, about three-quarters of full-time undergraduates received some form of financial aid. The two biggest sources of aid were federal loans, which made up 40 percent of the total, and grants from schools, which made up 21 percent.

The average full-time student at a private school receives about $9,300 in grants and tax benefits, according to the study, which reduces the average tuition and fees to about $14,400. The average full-time student at a public four-year school receives about $3,600, which lowers the average tuition and fees to about $2,600.

According to the latest data available from the College Board, 47 percent of full-time students attended a public four-year college in 2005, while 23 percent went to a private four-year college, 22 percent went to a public two-year school, and 8 percent went to a for-profit school.

About two-thirds of full-time students receive grant aid. Total federal grant funding was higher than last year, but was still lower in 2006-07 than it was three years earlier, after adjusted for inflation, the report said.

Private loans made up 24 percent of total education loans, while colleges and universities provided about 41 percent of the grant aid students receive.

Estimated growth in student borrowing slowed. Private borrowing rose, but not as quickly as more graduate students became eligible for federal PLUS Loans (Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students). The PLUS program, which covers the total cost of tuition minus other aid received, did not keep up with inflation between 2005-06 and 2006-07.

Graduate students had access to the PLUS program for the first time in the last school year with 127,000 students borrowing an average of $15,747 each.

Total student aid jumped by 82 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars over the decade from 1996-97 to 2006-07.

Full-time students receive about $9,300 of aid a year in the form of grants and tax benefits in private four-year institutions, $3,600 in public four-year institutions, and $2,040 in public two-year colleges.

On average, full-time students enrolled in public four-year colleges and universities received about $3,600 in grants from all sources and tax benefits. This aid reduced the average tuition and fees paid from the published 2007-08 in-state price of $6,185 to about $2,600.

Last year, 5.2 million college students received Pell Grants, awarded to students with no financial capacity to pay for college, from the federal government. Each grant averaged $2,494 per recipient.

The federal government also began giving additional awards to select Pell Grant recipients under the new Academic Competitiveness Grant and SMART Grant programs.

During the 2006-07 academic school year, 400,000 students received awards from the ACG program with an average of $850, while 80,000 students got SMART Grants averaging $3,875.

Federal loans to undergraduates did not keep up with inflation in 2006-07, and their borrowing from private sources increased by 12 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars.

For those parents planning for the future, assets in 529 college savings plans grew to $122 billion in 2007. Fourteen percent of the funds were in prepaid tuition plans, and the remainder were in standard state-sponsored savings accounts, which held an average of almost $13,000.