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Even this year's relatively smallEven this year's relatively smallaverage tuition increase wasEven this year's relatively smallaverage tuition increase wastwice the reate of inflation. The cost of a college education rose this year by one of the smallest amounts in the past 15 years. According to the College Board's annual tuition survey, 1996-97 tuition and fees rose 5 percent over last year's price tag -- due in part to university administrators' efforts to cut costs. Despite the smaller growth in tuition this year, the increase in college costs is still nearly double the rate of inflation -- 2.9 percent for the 12 months ending in August. Penn's tuition and fees for the 1996-97 school year -- $21,130, according to figures collected by the College Board -- rose 5.8 percent over last year's $19,898 figure, the second largest increase in the Ivy League. While four Ivy League schools kept their tuition increases under 5 percent, Harvard University's tuition rose 6.7 percent, from $20,444 to $21,901. University President Judith Rodin said Penn administrators strive to keep the cost of attending the university affordable. "Penn's tuition increase last year reflected an increase in the technology fee," Rodin said. "That raised the apparent percentage to that point. If we take out the rise in the technology fee, Penn's tuition increase is lower than five percent." Rodin noted that the cost of room and board remained the same as last year's cost. "Penn was the only institution in its peer group that kept room and board at a zero increase for the second year in a row," Rodin said. "So Penn's overall increase was actually lower than most of its peer group." Princeton University administrators have also taken several steps to keep Princeton's tuition increases low -- and their efforts have paid off. This year's increase, at 4.7 percent, is one of the lowest in the Ivy League. To help keep a Princeton education affordable, the university's president, Howard Shapiro, required department heads to cut their budgets and attempt to eliminate positions that became vacant, Princeton spokesperson Justin Harmon said. "The issue of sticker-shock is a matter of some concern to the public," Harmon said. "We've tried to be responsive to that." Princeton's communications office cut its operating budget by 7.5 percent this year -- a decrease typical of many of the school's departments, Harmon said. According to Harmon, when adjusted for inflation, Princeton's administrative budgets have shrunk over the last three years. Harmon added that the university's attempts to keep tuition increases low will "continue to be a high priority" -- to the delight of Princeton students. "Princeton's efforts to keep our tuition low are great," Princeton sophomore Jane Shin said. "The deans do a good job with financial aid, so Princeton is able to bring in a lot of money through tuition, which helps keep it lower." As financial support from federal and state governments continues to dwindle and the cost of educational services rise, many other schools have also begun to question how they spend their own money. At the College of New Jersey, administrators have cut unnecessary programs and courses in order to keep its tuition low. The university's recently defined core mission -- to provide a quality education for about $10,000 a year -- landed it in the fifth spot of this year's Money magazine best college values list. And the nine schools that comprise the University of California system have not increased their 1996-97 tuition at all. This year's in-state tuition and fees at the University of California at Berkeley total $4,355 -- exactly the same as last year. Whether the trend of lower tuition increases will continue is uncertain, according to David Merkowitz, spokesperson for the American Council on Education, who cited cuts in government spending as reasons for concern but said he is optimistic. "The question is whether states are going to shift their funding elsewhere," said Merkowitz, adding that private universities will be more likely to keep their tuition increases lower than public universities because the former rely less on government assistance. Merkowitz also said next year's reauthorization of the Higher Education Act -- which allocates funds for college and university programs -- will determine how much schools raise their tuition to compensate for reductions in government funding. Despite the uncertainty of federal and state assistance, Merkowitz said schools are making important steps toward keeping education affordable.

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