An annual survey of independent colleges, released Tuesday, finds that students may pay a little less to attend college this fall, even as colleges charge more, The Washington Post reports. Student aid spending will rise by 7 percent in the coming academic year, according to a survey by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. Published tuition and fees will rise 4.5 percent. Tuition inflation has slowed during the downturn: this is the second consecutive year of tuition increases in the 4-percent range. During the 10 years prior to the recession, sticker prices rose an average 6 percent a year. But the average student actually spends a bit less now than before the recession, because of unusually large bumps in student aid budgets. Institutional aid rose 9 percent in the 2009-10 academic year…

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staff and wire services reports