Trends in College Pricing

The College Board’s annual Trends in College Pricing report came out recently and as always, includes some fascinating data. For instance:

  • While overall appropriations to public colleges and universities have increased nominally over the past decade, full time enrollment has increased at a higher rate, meaning that per-full-time-student expenditures are approximately 11% lower than they were a decade ago.
  • Less students are enrolling in for-profit colleges, which are some of the worst offenders when it comes to taking tuition dollars without providing educational benefit. Between 2010 and 2015, enrollment at public 4-year and private non-profit schools increased by 5% and 6%, respectively, while enrollment at private for-profit schools dropped by 33%.
  • Unsurprisingly, college has become considerably less affordable for most American families. From the 1986-87 school year to the 2016-17 school year, the average published tuition for students attending in-state, public schools increased by $6,560 (in 2016 dollars), which accounts for 58% of the increase in income ($11,270) of the middle quintile of families and 8% of the increase for families in the highest income quintile.

This chart shows average published and net prices for different higher education sectors over the last 20 years. Since it’s averages, the numbers themselves are not terribly meaningful. Instead, look at the trends. Those include lower rates of increase in tuition and fees in the last few years as state budgets have recovered from the recession.


3 thoughts on “Trends in College Pricing

  1. Thank you for all your great information – it has truly helped us get our daughter into the right school at a manageable cost to us.

    One part of her financial aid award that is a bit frustrating for me is the work-study component. It may be a good topic for you to write about and I’m sure of interest to everyone looking at college financing.

    We received $1150 per semester in work study, which was great. The problem was that finding a job on campus with the number of hours required to earn that amount is difficult. Although there was some help to get connected with work, Freshmen had to find jobs that that were left after upperclassmen had their jobs. And, basically it looks like there are not enough hours available to cover all the work study money offered.

    This is my daughter’s second year at school, (she is at a good, small liberal arts school) and she has a better job that fits into her schedule pretty well, but still has a hard time getting all the hours she needs. Classes and study take priority. Interestingly, going into the second semester she was told that the department she is working in has had budget cuts, so hours will be tighter. It’s yet to be seen how she will come out. I’m thinking that perhaps they simply need to raise the pay scales if they can’t find enough hours for these kids.

    What more can you tell me about this program and is this situation typical across the country and in state schools as well as the small liberal arts colleges?

    Thanks so much, Bruce Branson-Meyer


    1. The good news in your daughter’s situation is that since she’s in her second year, starting in January she no longer needs to worry about her income impacting her EFC. That means she may be better off finding a regular job instead of a work-study job. If you didn’t see my post today about work study, the big difference between work-study and regular jobs is that work-study income is subtracted from other income for purposes of calculating your EFC.

Leave a Reply