Here’s the good news for college students: the cost of college is rising at a slower pace. Now, here’s the bad news: the sluggish economic rebound has students and their families forced to bear more of the costs of higher education.

The average sticker prices at four-year public universities in the U.S. rose 2.9% this year, the smallest annual increase in more than three decade, according to the College Board.

In-state tuition at public, four-year colleges averaged $8,893 for the 2013-2014 academic year, up 2.9% from the year before, and down from an average of 8% growth over the past decade. The price tag at private universities climbed 3.8% to an average of $30,100 for the 2013-2014 school year. 

Princeton Review President Rob Franek says that overall college costs seem to be leveling off, a trend that began in 2012.

“This is an extension of milder price increase, but I am cautious of telling students and families that it will be more affordable to attend college, because that doesn’t give the full picture,” Franek says. “It’s still an expensive venture.”

Despite college debt topping $1 trillion for the first time ever last year, borrowing is trending downward, according to the College Board’s 30th Annual Trends in Student Aid Report. In the 2012-2013 school year, federal Stafford undergraduate loans dropped by 3.9% as the amount borrowed fell by $3.7 billion. 

The grants that students receive via federal and state governments, and from institutions is no longer growing fast enough to keep net prices from increasing, College Board reports. The net price students actually pay for college, accounting for grant aid and tax breaks, is rising despite "published prices" slowing.

The College Board finds 60% of students who earned bachelor’s degrees in 2011-2012 and took out student loans graduated with an average debt of $26,500.

Franek says the government is offering fewer grants to students to help pay for college, but in some cases universities are picking up the slack. 

“I applaud colleges for that trend, they are realizing these are huge burdens for students and families,” he says.

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