Steady increases in the cost of going to college have worsened in recent years as cash-strapped states have cut back on education funding, according to a new report that says tuition and fees at the nation’s four-year colleges are up more than 40 percent from a decade ago.

The College Board’s annual Trends in College Pricing study, released Tuesday, revealed that public two- and four-year schools, which rely more on government money, have been particularly hard hit.

David Ward, the president of the American Council on Education – which represents the nation’s leading higher education institutions – called the findings troublesome.

“We are in the middle of a very difficult period in financing higher education,” Ward said in a statement. “I remain greatly concerned about the long-term viability of the social compact that has served students and families so well for more than 50 years.”

Using inflation-adjusted dollars, the average cost of tuition and fees at state-supported four-years schools is now 47 percent higher than it was 10 years ago, the study said.

The average cost of tuition and fees at private colleges and universities, also adjusted for inflation, has grown by 42 percent over the same period.

The College Board, a nonprofit that owns the SAT, said tuition for in-state students at four-year public campuses jumped 14.1 percent to $4,694 this fall. However, a dip in the price of room and board – assessed separately from tuition and fees – means that students living in residence halls are actually paying $10,636, only 9.8 percent more than they did in 2002-03.

The price hikes weren’t limited to four-year state schools.

The study found that the average tuition and fees assessed by public two-year colleges went up by 13.8 percent to $1,905.

And it now costs $26,854 to attend a four-year, private school, including tuition, fees, room and board: that’s up 5.7 percent from last year.

The report said that 60 percent of undergraduates are using financial aid packages to help pay for college. While student loans comprise a large portion of the aid, over $40 billion in state and federal grants that do not have to be repaid were distributed in 2002-03.

“It’s critical that families realize a college education is still in reach because of financial aid,” said Gaston Caperton, the president of the College Board.

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AP-ES-10-21-03 1836EDT

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