Yale’s tuition increased by a smaller percentage last year than the tuitions at most other U.S. schools, according to the College Board’s Trends in College Pricing report released last week. The cost of a Yale education remains significantly higher than the national average.

In the annual report, the College Board found that the average tuition for four-year private institutions was $18,273. Yale’s $27,130 tuition for the 2002-2003 school year is nearly $9,000 more expensive. But while the average increase in tuition nationwide was 5.8 percent, Yale’s increase from last year was only 3.9 percent.

In tuition matters, Yale compares itself primarily to the rest of the Ivy League, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University, Deputy Provost Lloyd Suttle said. While Yale’s bill remains larger than that of other private schools, it is comparable to tuition at peer institutions.

Last year, tuition increases were comparatively large in the Ivy League, where Yale and Princeton universities had the smallest increases at 3.9 percent. Dartmouth’s tuition increased by 4.4 percent; Dartmouth College’s tuition had not increased by more than 3.5 percent in a decade. Tuitions at Harvard and Stanford universities increased by 4.9 percent last year, and Cornell University’s tuition jumped 5 percent, the highest increase in the Ivy League.

Yale President Richard Levin said he is proud of Yale’s recent tuition track record.

“Since I’ve been president, we’ve had the slowest rate of increase in tuition in the Ivy League,” Levin said.

Levin said the greater increase in tuition at other, non-Ivy League schools may be a result of fund-raising difficulties during recessions. Ivy League universities are generally less affected by negative economic trends because of their large endowments.

Levin said the significant disparity between Ivy League tuition and that of other institutions can be attributed to the “variety and depth” of Yale’s education. He said the tuition would be significantly larger if Yale did not subsidize education with its endowment and gifts.

“The full tuition only covers half of what it takes to educate an undergrad,” Levin said.

Ernst Huff, associate vice president of student financial and administrative services, said Yale has consistently worked to keep the tuition increase low to minimize the impact on families.

“I think Yale has just been very conscious of the cost of education — and has made a concerted effort to keep costs down,” Huff said.

Suttle said keeping tuition low has been one of Levin’s major goals since the beginning of his tenure.

“It has been a very high priority for him,” Suttle said.

Two years ago, Yale’s term bill increased only 3.5 percent. Last year’s larger increase was attributed to significant University projects like residential college renovations and a smaller endowment growth, Levin said.

Huff said it is not clear whether these increases in tuition are a result of the slowing economy. He said administrators have not suggested that the current economic situation will lead to higher tuition. But Huff said a tuition increase larger than in the recent past is possible.

“The late ’90s was a much healthier economic situation,” Huff said.