Personal Finance

Costs have jumped 55% in a decade at public colleges

Andrew Sacks | Getty Images

The Class of 2019 has a lot to be proud of, and a hefty bill to show for it.

For newly minted graduates, their college education is the second-largest expense they’ll likely have in their lifetimes — right after purchasing a home.

Tuition and fees for a four-year private college averaged $35,830 in 2018-19; at four-year in-state public colleges, it was $10,230, according to the College Board. And that doesn’t count room and board or other expenses.

Tuition has historically risen about 3% to 5% a year, according to the College Board. However, during the recession, declining public funds caused tuition to skyrocket.

Over the last decade, tuition and fees rose 44% at four-year, private colleges and by 55% at public four-year schools, where students were harder hit, according to a report by GoBankingRates.

In the worst year during this period, for example, the average cost of private four-year schools rose 4.1% in 2011-12 to $27,880, from $26,770 the prior year, and the cost of four-year public schools reached $8,280, up 8.5% from $7,630 the year before, GoBankingRates found. (Check the cost of college the year you graduated.)

To see just how much the price of a postsecondary education has increased, the personal finance website analyzed data from the National Center for Education Statistics and the College Board going back to 1964.

In 1964-1965, the cost of a four-year private school was $1,160 per year, on average. From 1964 to 2019, the cost of tuition jumped just under 3,000%. Meanwhile, the cost of a four-year public school soared to just over 3,800%, from a mere $261 annually, GoBankingRates said. (Costs are in current dollars.)

The significant increase in college costs has outpaced inflation and far outpaced family income over decades (see the chart below).

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The latest victims of the student debt crisis — parents
Here’s how US college costs stack up to the world

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