College Costs Rising At Double The Inflation Rate

College costs are accelerating in price, according to a new study released this morning.

From the NYT:

Tuition and other costs, not including room and board, rose to $6,185 at public four-year colleges this year, up 6.6 percent from last year, while tuition at private colleges hit $23,712, an increase of 6.3 percent. At public two-year institutions, average tuition and fees rose 4.2 percent to $2,361.

Last year, tuition and fees at public institution rose by 5.7 percent; at private ones, by 6.3 percent and at public two-year institutions, by 3.8 percent.

“The average price of college is continuing to rise more rapidly than the consumer price index, more rapidly than prices in the economy,” Sandy Baum, a co-author of the report who is a senior policy analyst for the College Board and a professor at Skidmore College, told reporters at a news conference this morning. She added that the prices “are probably higher than most of us want them to be.”

Even after taking into account grants and other forms of aid, the cost of college is going up faster than both the cost of other goods and services and family incomes. “Consumer prices have risen by less than 3 percent a year, while net tuition at public colleges has risen by 6.6 percent and at private ones, 4.6 percent,” the NYT said.

The numbers seem to indicate that families are making up the difference by taking out more loans, with private loans continuing to be the fastest growing form of borrowing.

College Costs Rising at Double the Inflation Rate


Edit Your Comment

  1. Consumer-X says:

    Colleges are the most inefficient organizations on earth. They are protected realms removed from reality. They have ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, increased tuition rates higher than inflation rates. If anyone complains then they threaten to eliminate popular sports programs. They are elitists who fancy themselves as philosopher kings and we the public as lowly serfs.

  2. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    Where are these private schools that only charge $23k? I thought the going rate was around $35k.

  3. Lin-Z [linguist on duty] says:

    I would rather that they cut the tuition and emliminated “popular sports programs.” Football can bite it.

  4. plasmanic says:

    It’s Rockefeller Chapel in the picture and it alone was worth a good share of my Chicago education. What a great building.

  5. MBZ321 says:

    That is why everyone should go for a year or two to a community college. Now if your someone who can afford to give you/your children a fully paid Harvard education, sure go for it. But for everyone else, why wouldn’t you? It costs almost nothing when compared to any other school, you get all the “intro” classes out of the way, then you have enough money saved–or more of it(from working, living at home for 2 years etc..) to graduate from a bigger school with your degree, and with little to no debt. All anyone cares about is the diploma anyway..nobody is going to look back and criticize you for starting at a community college.

  6. Christovir says:

    Tuition fees are sky-rocketing in the UK too. It’s not really sustainable, especially as the number of university applicants continues to rise as well, and a degree is more of a pre-requisite for most jobs rather than a bonus.

    I did my undergrad in Georgia, and the HOPE scholarship paid for *all* tuition (and books) at any public university in the state. For private universities, it paid a portion equal to public university tuition. All you had to do as a student was maintain a 3.0 average, which is achievable by nearly anyone. If your GPA drops below 3.0, you lose the scholarship, but if you bring it back above 3.0, you get it back again. Very cool. I would love to see something like that implemented across the nation.

  7. Nately says:

    At most (public) universities the athletic departments are separate entities, with budgets that do not intermingle and have no effect on the rest of the school.

  8. XTC46 says:

    @Lin-Z: college football tends to bring in more money than the schools spend on it (especially at schools that have good programs) not to mention the huge amount of money donors provide to the school because of the team. In fact the extra money programs like football and basketball make go to help fun the programs that don’t make money. So cutting them is a bad idea. They don’t help or hurt tuition rates typically, but definitely help the school.

  9. bgeek says:

    @MBZ321: This plan always turns south when the university won’t accept the credits from the junior/community college.

  10. The Walking Eye says:

    @Lin-Z: Tuition collected from the student body does not go to sports programs and is to be raised independently of the academic arena. Football funds a lot of other sports programs and attracts a lot of donors. The big time basketball schools are the same way. It’s done this way to prevent sports from affecting the quality of teaching and technology. Also, sports are a way of attracting students who want to go to a school where they can have a blast during home games on the weekends.

    I see this as a parallel to the professional sports facilities. You’ve got to have the best and brightest and snazziest stuff to attract the best students, so you gotta spend spend spend. I got a degree five years ago and am now getting a second. My tuition has doubled in that time.

  11. TechnoDestructo says:


    All very true.

    It is only a good idea if you confirm with the university that you want to attend that they will accept credits from the community college you want to attend. I met a lot of transfer students in college…some from community college students (the local ones were all okay, because the community college was part of the university…hell, I took one of my English classes there due to scheduling), and most of the ones who had come from other universities lost about 1/3 of their credits.

    Hell, one of my university classes didn’t transfer to the Community College of the Air Force, which is probably the most accepting college in the fucking WORLD for transfer credits. (So I took the DANTES test)

    Don’t just confirm that they will accept MOST classes from your community college, confirm WHICH ones you can take in community college, and which ones you should hold off on. And even then some of it could change and you could lose a few before you get to university.

  12. crnk says:

    Or they might accept most of your credits and tell you you’re welcome to start at the beginning of the 6 year program….that is, if they’d let you transfer in…

  13. viviennet says:

    @Lin-Z: My school didn’t have a sports program and still charged $37k

    @plasmanic: Ahh, the place where fun goes to die. How I miss it so!

  14. Trai_Dep says:

    I’d be interested to see the degree of public funding (shudder t-t-t-a-x-e-s!) that higher ed has received. I know in California, general funding has been slashed (we already spend more on prisons than colleges and universities, when previously the ratio was FAR reversed).

    My bet? The “shocking” tuition outpacing inflation is due to the fact that states are funding colleges much less, which results in the shortfall to be made up for by hiking tuition.

    The fact that the Baby Boomers’ education was paid by their elders when THEY were of age, then their turning their noses at their obligation to fund today’s students grates, to say the least.

  15. TangDrinker says:

    Average salaries for faculty and staff aren’t going up that high – my spouse is a faculty member at a state university and got a 3% raise (first time in 3 years)- after seeing health insurance go up by 10%.

    Another way colleges get around tuition caps on a state level is by increasing the FEES, so you end up paying $500 or more a semester for “technology” fees, when most people have their own laptop.

  16. darkclawsofchaos says:

    mine charges $22k, but theres not much aid, only half of it gets paid on the condition I keep like 3.6 GPA

  17. lyndyn29 says:

    Whoa. I’m paying just a titch under $11k for an excellent education at a private college. Any wonder I’m sticking with the same college for grad school?!?

  18. IdleHands... says:

    Screw college. The job market is oversaturated as it is. Just resign to working your way up from a minimum wage job, like the good old days when school was just a playground for Muffy and Buffy! Oh, I mean like the not-so-great current days, when…the… *(sigh)*

    You can still register at American (swindle-U)niversity
    where our slogan is “we’ve got you by the balls!”

    we specialize in:

    eternal debt

    low-paying jobs that don’t match your level of education


    scerosis of the liver (+5 year MA in Jaundice Studies)

    kissing ass/taking it up the aforementioned with a smile (lab fees not included)

  19. HooFoot says:

    That’s the worst picture of Pitt that I have ever seen.

  20. TWinter says:

    @trai_dep: You are spot on about falling rates of state support driving tuition increases in higher ed.

    Other factors that drive up costs
    1. Information technology costs are really high in higher ed, a huge cost factor that barely existed 15 years ago.
    2. Libraries – inflation for academic books and journals is also out of control. It’s extremely expensive to maintain a good library, especially in science, engineering, and medicine.
    3. Chasing US News rankings is expensive. The rankings are flawed in all sorts of ways that cause campuses to spend tons of money to do things that have little impact on your average student but help to push them up on various statistics.
    4. Student expectations – Many campuses have had to invest heavily in dorm upgrades, student centers, and other student conveniences.

    The sports equation is very messy. Most schools do have a pretty firm financial barrier between sports and academics, so there are no direct flows of money in either direction. The extra money from basketball and football usually funds insanely high coaching salaries and small sports like rowing, tennis, and wrestling.

    Good sports programs do drive undergraduate applications, which is good for selective institutions. But it’s not at all clear that fans who donate money to sports also donate money to the library or the English department in any great numbers, so sports don’t really help the rest of the university that way.

    And there is also an argument that the success of sports teams actually undermines political support for public institutions because many people THINK the universities are bringing in tons of cash on the football team when really none of that football money ever makes its way directly to an academic program.

  21. That photo is wonderfully ominous. You can hear the organs and harpsichords in the background if you look at it long enough.

    The university I went to has empty faculty positions it can’t “afford” to fill yet the campus is constantly under construction. I’m sure some of it is necessary but how often do they really need to tear up some of these streets? I wonder why they even bother paving a couple of them.

  22. @IRSistherootofallevil: I was wondering the same thing. A Private School I was considering attending wanted no less than $41k per year and that’s not even taking into consideration room & board.

  23. protest says:

    i thought it was pitt too, but heinz chapel has a steeple on it, so i guess it is somewhere in chicago.

    i am down with that HOPE scholarship, my family had actually considered moving to Georgia when I was young just for that opportunity. can’t believe more states don’t offer something like it.

  24. GayatriSpivak says:

    An elite school is probably worth it, from what I’ve seen. They take care of their own and have the endowments to give you pretty good aid. Second- and third-tier privates are a terrible deal. I knew this poor kid (in both senses of the word) at USC who didn’t get a dime in financial aid and graduated with his BA owing over a hundred large. My tuition at Columbia after grants and scholarships was under 5,000 a year and I made a much higher starting salary. This kid pays over 900/a month

  25. Anitra says:

    How is this news? This double-inflation growth has been true for at least 5 years, if not more. The tuition at my alma mater (a private engineering university) grew 25% between 2000 and 2004.

  26. G-Dog says:

    Community college and industry specific schools are the way to go.

  27. disavow says:

    High demand with low elasticity, so schools have a lot of leeway to raise prices. It’s surprising that more private companies haven’t stepped in to form for-profit universities.

  28. etinterrapax says:

    @TWinter: Spot-on. Also, we’re in the middle of a physical plant upgrade bubble, since most colleges last added or renovated buildings in the sixties, when enrollment was on a heavy uptick. So all of those buildings need renovation to add technology and come up to code.

    Having been to college both before and after the tech influx, I’ve seen the changes in on-campus life, particularly. First it was phone lines for every room–and yes, I did go to college initially before that was common–and then cable TV and internet, and singles for everyone, and food that’s beyond edible in the dining hall, and computer labs all over the place, and TV lounges in the student center just in case you aren’t satisfied with the one you brought from home, and…and… Someone’s paying for it, people. It isn’t going to be the state. I hardly blame them for that. Internet access is reasonable, but quitting TV in grad school was one of the best academic moves I ever made. Campus life isn’t supposed to be like living with your parents. That’s why one pays $15,000 a year to live somewhere else.

  29. Benstein says:

    Universities are the most PC places on this earth (remember PCU :). Any stupid program proposed based on diversity or tolerance will get any money that it wants.

    Yes, Engineering and Science programs cost more, but they also bring in lots of money to the school. Engineering software and equipment can be very expensive, but most times it is donated or sold at a significant discount so that we beg our bosses to buy it when we get out of school.

  30. IndyJaws says:

    So students get deep into debt and everyone jumps on their soapboxes and blames the student loan industry. Why isn’t there similar outrage here? The hypocracy is deafening.

  31. 12monkeys says:

    @trai_dep:Why should strangers be responsible for other peoples education?If you cannot afford college then work until you can.The military paid some of my education and then I worked for the rest.Why should some people get a free handout and others have to pay?You must believe in rewarding the weak at the strong’s expense.

  32. nardo218 says:

    @MBZ321: Because some of us would like to get a college education, not 13th grade.

  33. Pop Socket says:

    @IRSistherootofallevil: That number must be tuition only and not include room and board which is about $15k a year no matter where you go.

    Don’t even get me started on textbooks. You pay another $2k a year for those whether you go to community college or Yale.

  34. yagisencho says:

    Quoting Atlas Shrugged, 12Monkeys?

    I paid my way through public school (cash + loans), but this was back in the early 90s. Students now are paying double what I did, so end up with twice the debt. Seems like a lousy way to invest in our country’s future. Unless you’re a financial institution.

  35. Upsilon says:

    Yeah, tuition kills.
    In other news, it’s great that Hyrule finally converted that old dusty temple into a college. Good show. (referring to pic)


  36. economicgenius says:

    loans are to blame for higher school cost.
    schools know that any bank would loan a student money therefore increase cost. more than 30% since the 80s
    only thing that i found that correlates with that is student loans have increase since that period too.