NEW YORK — While more financial aid is available for students than ever before, the number of private loans for higher education began to shrink even before the current credit crisis, according to a study on financial aid trends recently released by the College Board.

Financial aid, including both grants and federal loans, increased in 2007-08 by a per-student average of 5.5% after adjusting for inflation, according to the report.

Although students, over the last decade, have increasingly turned to private loans to help pay for college, the report–Trends in Student Aid 2008–found that in 2007-08 private loan volume actually declined by 1% to $19.1 billion in 2007 dollars. That decrease reversed years of double-digit growth–about 23% per year from 1997-98 to 2006-07–and came before the current credit crisis brought on new concerns about students' ability to find loans.

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