During the fiscal years 2003-2012, "median tuition rose 55 percent across all public colleges," while state funding decreased by 12 percent, the General Accountability Office reports. Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images hide caption

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Noelle Johnson has a lengthy commute via bus and train to her job near Washington, D.C. She's been working toward her B.A. for nine years, and when she finally finishes, she says, she'll be able to afford to live closer to work. James Clark/NPR hide caption

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Students at Broward College in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., attend a debt management workshop. Broward is one of 29 colleges that no longer accepts unsubsidized student loans. The effort is part of an experiment to cut down on student loan debt and defaults. John O'Connor/WLRN hide caption

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For the first time, a majority of students got federal help to attend college, according to a new U.S. survey. Here, people walk on the Columbia University campus in July. Mario Tama/Getty Images hide caption

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