Education Costs Continue to Increase

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Guess what? According to the US Department of Education, the average tuition price tag at public four-year universities increased 15% from the 2008-2009 school year to the 2010-2011 school year. For the most part, these increases have been driven by cuts to state support for higher education.

The 15% average increase works out to an annualized rate of a little more than 7%/year, far outstripping inflation over the same period. The University of the District of Columbia (never heard of it…) led the way with a 123% increase.

Looking more broadly, states such as Georgia, Arizona, and California suffered the most, with tuition at numerous schools in those states increasing 40% or more due to drastic budget cuts at the state level. Schools in Puerto Rico also saw huge increases. You can dig through the data yourself here.

The good news is that the net price (i.e., the amount actually paid after grants scholarships are taken into account) increased just 4.6% nationally, so students haven’t been bearing the full cost of these increases. But still… When you project these costs out over time, it’s clear that college costs are increasing at a unsustainable rate.

For the sake of comparison, tuition at private four-year universities fared a bit better, increasing an average of 9.7% (6.1% net) over the same period. In contrast, tuition at public two-year colleges increase 16.6%, though the net increase at these schools was just 0.8%.

I’m not sure about you, but I find these numbers to be more than a bit troubling. As the father of four boys, we’ll have kids in college continuously for ten years starting four years from now. Yikes.

Source: College Affordability and Transparency Center via

10 Responses to “Education Costs Continue to Increase”

  1. Anonymous

    Community college is definitely the way to go. There are plenty of alternatives as well. Trade school and on-the-job training for in-demand skilled workers is a great alternative for many people.

  2. Anonymous

    My “day job” is at a small local college, and I am amazed at how much the tuition goes up every year (far faster than our salaries!) I wonder how some of our local urban students can even afford it, especially with a community college down the road. Sure, you need to look at the whole picture – financial aid package, major, reputation – but college is expensive these days!

  3. Anonymous

    The only people that pay full price are those that can ‘afford’ it. In other words, if you sacraficed to save for college, you will pay full price. Meanwhile, if you spent your money rather than saved it, you will get a discount on the tuition. The savers subsidize the spenders. I refuse to play this game. My kids are going to public colleges.

  4. Anonymous

    Schools are chasing bounties (subsidies) just like Adam Smith predicted. This has gotten ridiculous. My daughter insisted on attending a ridiculously-priced school (nearly $20k per year!!) for “the experience” and took out loans to help. Meanwhile I and many others who actually know better are going to one of the “Big 3” which let you transfer in 100% of your credit from other sources and where you can get a fully regionally-accredited degree from a state school for under $10k total out the door.

    The student loan system is creating the bubble, and then politicians want to blame others for the problem. The bubble is preparing to burst, and then all hell will break loose politically and socially. Look for a lot of finger pointing, always away from the politicians who pushed the subsidies.

  5. Anonymous

    “due to drastic budget cuts at the state level”

    Thats the big reason. Another big reason is the # of students keeps increasing so schools have to build more buildings over time and accomodate more students. Per student spending is not up nearly as much as tution over the past 30 years.

  6. Anonymous

    I agree about considering community colleges. Another good option in many areas are”night schools” run by respectable universities. In my area, one night school is much cheaper than the its ‘regular’ counterpart and on par with the public universities and close to the community college. By the way, this “night school” offers classes during the afternoons and weekends as well as online. Lots of options!

  7. Anonymous

    Colleges aren’t going to price themselves down until the student loan industry changes. Loans are disbursed based on cost of attendance, not potential future earnings or any other metric. Schools just declare their tuition is X and students apply for/receive X in financial aid. This is at least true for graduate schools.

  8. Anonymous

    Colleges are going to price themselves right out of business. Students can’t afford to pay student loans anymore because costs are so high and jobs are to few.

    Colleges need to cut prices and have more competition. Advertising lower prices and financing plans will help a student go to one particular college over another. To save our students the burden of incredible debt, start them off at local community colleges.

  9. Anonymous

    I am concerned as well. We would like to pay part of their tuition, but it seems like each year it gets more and more difficult. We have one starting in 8 years, and then two more starting in 14 and 15 years. The two back-to-back are the ones that scare me. 🙂

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