By Richard Perez-Pena

The prices that most people actually pay for college, which had remained stable for several years, are on the rise again, as tuition and other cost increases outpace financial aid awards, the College Board reported on Wednesday.

The average price of tuition, fees, room and board, after financial aid and tuition tax credits are deducted, has reached $12,110 at public four-year colleges for in-state students and $23,840 at private nonprofit institutions.

For three decades the cost of college has seemed to do nothing but climb faster than the cost of living, based on the full prices that institutions publish. That amount, known as the sticker price, set records yet again this year, averaging $39,520 for private nonprofit colleges and $17,860 for public ones.

But most students pay far less, and the true net prices, as calculated by the College Board in its annual survey of almost 4,000 institutions, and adjusted for inflation, paint a different picture: after rising swiftly since the 1980s, net prices began to level off in the last decade and actually dropped a little during the recession before climbing once again.

Judging by published prices, this year’s increase — less than 3 percent, adjusted for inflation, for public and private colleges combined — is low by recent standards. But this year’s net price climbed more than 4 percent, the steepest rise since 2003.


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