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New Info Out to Help Students and Policymakers Facing College Decisions

With the cost of college rising faster than family income, it's not surprising that more Americans are relying on help from the government for higher education.

The number of students applying for federal financial assistance increased from about 19.4 million in 2007-08 to nearly 31.4 million in the 2011-12 award year, a 62 percent increase, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education.

This information is part of the updated edition of the National Student Aid Profile released Thursday by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.

Between 2001-02 and 2011-12, the total amount of federal financial aid awarded to students under Title IV of the Higher Education Act (including Pell Grants, TRIO programs, etc.) rose from $72.3 billion to an estimated $173.8 billion, a leap of 140 percent. In 2011-12, Title IV programs accounted for 71 percent of the $245 billion in total financial aid received by college students.

Also Thursday, the U.S. Department of Education updated information available to help families compare college prices. The College Affordability and Transparency Center has new lists that highlight schools with the highest and lowest tuition and fees, highest and lowest average net prices, and institutions whose costs are rising at the fastest rates.

Nearly 1,500 postsecondary institutions are included on these lists from the public, private, and for-profit sectors.

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