4-year university tuition average up 15 percent


According to data released by the Education Department, the increases have been 40 percent or more at states like Georgia, Arizona and in California.

State budget cuts are mostly to blame, but even the nation's private universities have seen significant price hikes.

Pennsylvania State University had the highest in-state tuition for a four-year public university at $15,250 during the 2010-11 school year. When you factor in the costs of room, board and other expenses, the total rises to $19,816, the fourth highest net price nationwide.

Education secretary Arne Duncan says students need to be smart consumers and states need to do their part by making higher education a priority in their budget.

"As a nation, we need more college graduates in order to stay competitive in the global economy," Duncan said. "But if the costs keep on rising, especially at a time when family incomes are hurting, college will become increasingly unaffordable for the middle class."

The Department of Education has recently launched several initiatives to increase student and parent awareness on the costs of higher education.

Last week, 10 college and university presidents agreed to provide students information on costs, financial aid and monthly loan payments after graduation in an easy-to-understand form.

President Barack Obama also issued a mandate to streamline the application process for those who want to enroll in income-based repayment plans, which set a cap on loan payments based on discretionary income.

Meanwhile, Republicans and Democrats in Congress are facing a July 1 deadline to avert a doubling of interest rates on new federal student loans for 7.4 million people.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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