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Boston — Connecticut College in New London charged the highest tuition among U.S. private, nonprofit four- year schools in 2010-2011 at $43,990, according to a government list designed to help students shop for higher education.
Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y., was second with tuition and fees of $43,564, the Education Department said Tuesday on its website. The average annual tuition among private nonprofit schools was $21,949, the agency said.
"The two-year-old data released today is based on tuition and fees only, not total cost of attendance. If you look at total cost, which includes tuition, fees, room and board, we were much lower on the list," said Deborah MacDonnell, Connecticut College spokesperson. "Connecticut College is one of a small number of residential liberal arts colleges that offer a very valuable and personalized education. Our total cost of attendance is comparable to that of our peer schools -- as is our strong commitment to need-based financial aid."
As education loan debt has reached $1 trillion, surpassing the total Americans owe on credit cards, President Barack Obama has called on colleges and universities to rein in costs and make sure that students understand how much they're spending and borrowing for school. Average tuition at private nonprofit schools rose 9.7 percent in the 2010-2011 year from 2008-2009, while rates at four-year public colleges jumped 15 percent, the report said.
"If costs keep on rising, especially as family incomes are hurting, college will become increasingly unaffordable," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said on a conference call with reporters. "When middle-class folks think college is out of reach, that it's just for rich people, that's not a formula for success."
The agency's annual rankings also include public and for- profit colleges. Pennsylvania State University's main campus, located in State College, had the highest tuition among public four-year schools at $15,250. The University of Pittsburgh was second in the category at $14,936 annually.
The costliest three for-profit colleges by annual tuition were at West Coast University's Orange County, Los Angeles, and Ontario, Calif., campuses. Tuition was at least $33,544 at all three locations, according to the report. Students and parents should use the government's information to seek out the best values for their money, Duncan said.
"Please make sure that you and your student are comparison shopping," he said.
Duncan lauded the community colleges for keeping students' costs down. Average net prices, that include students living costs along with financial assistance, rose less than 1 percent at community colleges in 2009-2010 from the 2007-2008 academic year, according to the report.
"They continue to be one of the most affordable options for students," Duncan said.