By Nanette Asimov
California’s public universities aren’t the most expensive in the country to attend — some are even among the cheapest — but they do have the fastest-rising tuition, according to a U.S. Department of Education ranking of college costs released Tuesday.
Seven University of California campuses and three California State University campuses are among the top 5 percent of public colleges in the nation with the fastest-rising tuition.
UC campuses at Berkeley, Los Angeles, Merced, Riverside, Santa Cruz, San Diego and Irvine saw tuition increases of 40 to 43 percent between 2009 and 2011, while CSU campuses at Long Beach, San Diego and Chico got tuition increases of 40 to 42 percent in the two-year period.
While UC Davis didn’t make the top 5 percent, tuition and fees rose 38.4 percent from $8,639 in 2008-09 to $11,958 in 2010-11, according to the database.
The Education Department released the list to promote its searchable database as a way for families to get a better idea of the true cost of higher education — and to consider some low-cost schools they may not know about.
It offers not just schools with the highest and lowest tuition, but shows the average cost of attending the colleges after taking into account room, board, books and discounts from financial aid — the net cost.
“Many families see a $25,000 price tag, but they don’t know that it’s really going to cost $10,000,” said Undersecretary of Education Martha Kanter, who acknowledged that a problem with the data is that the numbers are slightly stale, from the 2010-11 academic year and showing increases from 2008-09.
Key trends emerge
Nevertheless, the list reveals tantalizing trends among the 4,165 public, private, for-profit and nonprofit schools that participated. For example: Religious colleges posted some of the fastest-rising tuition among nonprofit private schools, with an average increase of almost 10 percent. By contrast, nonprofit private college tuition rose about 6 percent, on average.
The priciest tuition in the country is at Connecticut College, a private, nonprofit campus that charges $43,990, well above the $21,949 national average for those schools.
The public university with the highest tuition is Penn State’s main campus, which charges $15,250. Yet when room, board and books are included, the average student at Penn State pays just under $20,000, according to the database. That’s less than at the University of Guam, where students pay just under $26,000, on average.
Tuition at public campuses is $6,669 on average, with the net price $10,471. The federal database focuses on the 5 percent of schools with the highest price tag, and the 5 percent with the lowest. California’s public universities don’t show up on those lists. But they take center stage for fastest-rising tuition.
Although basic tuition for all UC campuses is the same, as it is for CSU, each campus augments the price with its own mandatory fees, which accounts for slight differences.
California students who have spent years alternating between studying for exams and protesting tuition increases said they are angry about it — but not surprised.
“School started off relatively inexpensive, but skyrocketed,” said Joelle Gamble, who graduates from UCLA on Friday. In addition to a bachelor’s degree in international development, she’ll take home $20,000 in student loan debt.
Gamble paid $8,027 in tuition and mandatory fees when she was a freshman four years ago. This year, she paid $13,218 — a 65 percent increase.
Regents hint at hike
The UC regents haven’t yet raised tuition for this year, but they have hinted that they may raise it 6 percent at their meeting next month. The state has cut $750 million from UC’s budget this year and could cut an additional $250 million this winter if Californians reject Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative in November.
Although no public university in California appears on the list of schools with the lowest tuition, students at six CSU campuses pay some of the lowest net prices in the country: Dominguez Hills, Los Angeles, Fullerton, Bakersfield, Fresno and Cal Poly Pomona.
At the same time, California’s community colleges post the lowest tuition in the country. While the national average is $2,721, community college tuition in California ranges from $624 to $814.
To learn more
— To see the U.S. Department of Education’s lists on which schools have the highest and lowest prices: links.sfgate.com/ZLAP
— Other searchable databases about colleges across the country:
— Reach Nanette Asimov at firstname.lastname@example.org