Public schools--especially two-year institutions--are enrolling more college students.

More Students Choosing Two- and Four-Year Public Colleges

Even as published prices rose, public schools have increased enrollment since 2005.

Public schools--especially two-year institutions--are enrolling more college students.

Public schools--especially two-year institutions--are enrolling more college students.


In recent years, more students have enrolled in public colleges—and many of them have chosen two-year schools.

The latest Analysis Brief released by the College Board Advocacy and Policy Center, "Trends in Tuition and Fees, Enrollment, and State Appropriations for Higher Education By State," found that, from fall 2005 to fall 2010, public school enrollment increased in all states and the District of Columbia. 

In total, 15.1 million students attended a public institution in fall 2010—a 16.3 percent increase over fall 2005's enrollment figure of 11.8 million, according to the study. 

[Explore U.S. News's rankings of top public schools.]

Though states' public four-year schools have enrolled more students since 2005, public two-year schools drew even more attendees. In Louisiana, for instance, public two-year school enrollment increased by 137.8 percent between fall 2010 than in fall 2005, according to the College Board. 

"In general, the increase in total fall enrollment in the public four-year sector was much smaller than that in the public two-year sector," the study notes. 

Over the studied time span, average published tuition rose at public two- and four-year universities, but remained lower than published prices at private nonprofit four-year schools. In 2011-2012, the average published in-state tuition and fees at two-year public schools nationwide was $2,963, with a single-state high of $6,741 in New Hampshire, according to the study. 

For public four-year schools, in-state prices averaged $8,244, with New Hampshire again posting the highest average published tuition and fees: $13,507. On average, those published prices were 8.7 percent higher at public two-year colleges than the year before, and 8.3 percent higher at public four-year schools. 

[See why more students are paying for college.]

At private four-year schools, in contrast, the average published tuition and fees was $28,500 in 2011-2012, an average 4.5 percent increase from the year before. 

Some of the published tuition increases at public schools may be attributable to decreases in state funding. In New Hampshire, which had the most expensive average published tuition for both two- and four-year public schools, state appropriations for higher education dipped by 39 percent in just one year. Most other states posted lower but still significant year-over-year decreases in state education funding, with total state appropriations nationwide decreasing 7.5 percent between 2010-2011 and 2011-2012. 

Prospective students should bear in mind that this report looks at trends in college pricing—not necessarily student payments—and many enrollees do not end up paying full published tuition prices. To estimate what the net price of college will be after school aid is taken into account, prospective students and parents can use college net price calculators. Students can also apply for scholarships, consider potentially cost-cutting programs such as regional tuition breaks and three-year degree programs, and should thoroughly research student loan options if they'll be borrowing to help pay for college. 

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