WASHINGTON — EDUCATION Secretary Lauro Cavazos said Monday colleges and universities must cut expenses so they can reduce steadily rising tuition costs, but he also noted the public has a ``misconception'' that higher education is unaffordable. Mr. Cavazos released three reports about the costs of higher education, including a handbook called ``Tough Choices'' to help colleges examine their priorities and then decide how to control spending. College tuition has risen much faster than the rate of inflation. Between 1975 and 1987, inflation-adjusted tuition grew 28 percent at public colleges and 44 percent at private colleges, the department said. In the fall of 1990, average college tuitions rose about 8 percent at most institutions. And while student financial aid grew faster than inflation during the 1980s, it did not keep pace with tuition increases, it said.
``It is now time for individual colleges and universities to ask hard questions, set strict limits, and start making tough choices,'' said Cavazos.
These choices, he said, could mean dropping an entire department, forgoing recruitment of high-priced researchers or eliminating the athletic program.
``It has to decide what kind of institution it wants to be,'' Cavazos said. ``When there is a university close by that offers duplication, why don't you let someone else do it?'' he said.
A spokeswoman for the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers said colleges have been reticent about lowering tuition.
``They're pricing themselves out of the market.... Universities are going to have to make some changes,'' said Doris Johnson.
But as Cavazos urged colleges to control costs, he also contended higher education is still affordable - you just have to look for it. He said that while the average tuition at independent four-year institutions is $9,400 per academic year, it is just $1,800 at public-supported collegess.