The College Board’s annual Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid report was released recently. Among the headline findings: college tuition prices increased at extremely low rates for the second year in a row, reflecting both a combination of continued impacts of the pandemic and enrollment pressures from demographic trends.

Average net prices, adjusted for inflation, are at the lowest levels they’ve been since the 2006-07 school year at both private and public four-year colleges. Meanwhile, student loans as a share of the funds used to pay for college fell from 40% a decade ago to just 30% in 2020-2021. This may be more reflective of loans than of budgets: the amount students can borrow under the federal direct student loan program hasn’t increased since 2008.

Institutional grant aid has increased by about 2/3 over the past decade. In fact, the share of college costs covered by institutional grants more than doubled, from 16% to 33%, between 2010-11 and 2020-21. Private money is in fact now the largest source of grants, with federal and state grants dropping from 53% of grant aid in 2010-11 to 36%. Institutional grants have gone from about 1/3 of grant money to just over half, with private or employer grants making up the rest.

In the same time period, Pell Grants dropped from covering 19% of costs to just 15% and federal student loans from 38% to 26%. The maximum Pell Grant has increased nominally over the past decade: in 2010-11 it was $5,832 and by 2020-21 it increased to $6,495. Meanwhile, Pell Grant expenditures have dropped by more than $16 billion over the past decade, from $42.3 billion in 2010-11 to $26 billion in 2020-21, with 3.1 million less students receiving Pell Grants than a decade ago.

What about student loans? More than half of the class of 2019 graduated with student loan debt; average debt was $26,700 for public school grads and $33,000 for private school grads. 54% of borrowers owe less than $20,000, accounting for 13% of the total outstanding loan balance. On the other end, 8% of borrowers owe more than $100,000, and hold 37% of the total outstanding loan balance.

Almost 1/4 of outstanding loan debt is held by people over age 50, and 28% of borrowers owing more than $200,000 are in that age group. Many of those balances include parent PLUS loans in addition to money the borrowers spent on their own educations.

You can read the full report here.


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