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MONEY MATTERS

College costs still zooming

The long-standing trend of college costs outpacing inflation worsened this year, according to a survey by The College Board.

A year at a four-year public campus now averages $9,008, while the price tag at a private college is $23,578. Last year's survey said tuition, room and board averaged $8,400 at public schools and $22,500 at private schools.

The College Board, a New York-based non-profit best known as owner of the SAT, derived its report of 2001-02 charges from a survey of 2,732 nonprofit college and universities, more than half the nation's roughly 4,000 institutions. Averages were weighted by enrollment to better reflect costs at the various types of schools.

Consumer prices through September rose 2.8 percent this year. The College Board survey found some higher education costs rose at more than double that rate.

The biggest increase was at public, four-year campuses, where tuition and fees for state residents rose 7.7 percent over last year, to $3,754. Living on campus climbed 6.6 percent, to $5,254 for room and board.

Private, four-year colleges saw a less dramatic increase, with tuition and fees now $17,123, a 5.5 percent rise, and living on campus costing $6,455, up 4.7 percent.

Tuition and fees at community colleges jumped an average of 5.8 percent this year, to $1,738. Private junior colleges also got pricier: $7,953 for tuition and fees, up 5.5 percent; $5,278 for room and board, 3.9 percent more.

Associated Press

Long distance costs more

Some basic per-minute long-distance rates are up as much as 13 percent from a year ago, according to the 2001 Long Distance Rates Survey released recently by Consumer Action, a consumer advocacy group based in San Francisco.

The survey concludes that "no long-distance customer should ever be without a calling plan -- without one you're paying the companies' very highest basic rates."

Among the fees Consumer Action criticized:

A 9.9 percent universal service fee on total long-distance charges. When Consumer Action surveyed carriers a year ago, AT&T charged 8.6 percent, MCI-WorldCom 8.3 percent and Sprint 6.8 percent.

The universal fund subsidizes phone service to low-income people and rural residents. Consumer Action said the carriers actually pay about 6.9 percent of their revenues into the fund. Anything above that "represents billions in overcharges," the group said. The carriers deny any overcharges.

Directory assistance charges now average $1.99. Consumer Action said that last year AT&T charged $1.49, MCI-WorldCom $1.40 and Sprint $1.99.

Both AT&T and MCI-WorldCom increased their basic phone rates for evenings and weekends by about 13 percent. The survey, however, said Sprint's basic rates had held steady.

Carriers have increased what they charge for fee-based, one-rate calling plans from 4 cents a minute last year to 7 cents a minute this year. Monthly fees for 7-cent plans average between $3.95 and $4.95, the survey said.

Knight Ridder/Tribune

Refi data is online

Lots of Web sites provide useful tips, rate information and calculators to help homeowners interested in refinancing their mortgages. Here are a few to check out:

www.bankrate.com. A great place to check for rates of all kinds, including mortgages. Also has articles and tips on refinancing and calculators.

www.indymac.com. Learn how the refinance process works, check and compare rates, calculators.

www.loanlinkoc.com. Current rates, calculators, a glossary of mortgage terms.

www.hsh.com. Search for loan rates by region, rates for borrowers with poor credit, tracking ARM indexes, calculators.

Orange County Register

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