Highlights

Between 2013-14 and 2014-15, average published tuition and fee prices increased by 2.9% for in-state students in the public four-year sector, by 3.3% for out-of-state students in the public four-year sector and for in-district students at public two-year colleges, and by 3.7% at private nonprofit four-year institutions. These increases are higher than the 2.0% increase in the Consumer Price Index between July 2013 and July 2014, but in all sectors these price increases are lower than the average annual increases in the past five years, the past 10 years, and the past 30 years.

Trends in College Pricing 2014 reports on the prices charged by colleges and universities in 2014-15, how prices have changed over time, and how they vary within and across types of institutions, states, and regions. We also include information on the estimated net prices students and families pay after taking financial aid into consideration. Data on institutional revenues and expenditures and on changing enrollment patterns over time supplement the data on prices to provide a clearer picture of the circumstances of students and the institutions in which they study.

Published Tuition and Fees and Room and Board

The increases in in-state published tuition and fees at public four-year institutions of 2.9% in 2014-15 and 2.8% in 2013-14 are the only increases since 1974-75 that have been less than 3% (not adjusted for inflation).

  • Average published tuition and fees for in‐state students in the public four‐year sector increased by $254 (2.9%), from $8,885 in 2013-14 to $9,139 in 2014-15. Room and board charges are $9,804.
  • Average published out-of-state tuition and fees at public four-year institutions rose by $735 (3.3%), from $22,223 in 2013-14 to $22,958 in 2014-15. Average total charges are $32,762.
  • Average published tuition and fees at private nonprofit four-year institutions rose by $1,100 (3.7%), from $30,131 to $31,231 in 2014-15. Average total charges are $42,419.
  • Average published tuition and fees at public two-year colleges increased by $106 (3.3%), from $3,241 in 2013-14 to $3,347 in 2014-15.
  • Estimated average tuition and fees for full-time students in the for-profit sector increased by about $190 (1.3%), from $15,040 in 2013-14 to $15,230 in 2014-15.
  • About two-thirds of full-time students pay for college with the assistance of grant aid; many receive federal tax credits and deductions to help cover expenses.

Variation in Tuition and Fees

Among full-time undergraduates at public and private nonprofit four-year institutions, the median published tuition and fee price in 2014-15 is $11,550.

  • Twelve percent of full-time students in the public four-year sector attend institutions that did not increase their tuition prices at all in 2014-15 and another 43% faced increases below 3%; 5% of students attend institutions that increased their prices by 9% or more.
  • In the private nonprofit four-year sector, 65% of full-time students attend institutions that increased their tuition and fees by between 3% and 6% in 2014-15; 30% attend institutions that increased their prices by less than 3%, and 2% faced increases of 9% or more.
  • The average published in-state tuition and fee price for undergraduates enrolled at public master’s universities is $7,968, compared to $10,075 at public doctoral universities.
  • The average published tuition and fee price for undergraduates enrolled at private nonprofit master’s universities is $27,594, compared to $39,008 at private doctoral universities.

Differences Across States

  • Published in-state tuition and fees at public four-year institutions range from $4,646 in Wyoming and $6,138 in Alaska to $14,419 in Vermont and $14,712 in New Hampshire.
  • In-district tuition and fees at public two-year colleges range from $1,429 in California and $1,645 in New Mexico to $6,500 in New Hampshire and $7,320 in Vermont.
  • In 2014-15, published tuition and fees for in-state students at flagship universities range from $4,646 at the University of Wyoming and $6,099 at the University of Montana to $16,552 at the University of New Hampshire and $18,464 at Penn State.
  • In 15 states, average in-state tuition and fees at public four-year institutions increased by less than 10% in inflation-adjusted dollars between 2009-10 and 2014-15. In 18 states the increase was 20% or more.
  • California’s 58% inflation-adjusted increase in average published tuition and fees for full-time students at public two-year colleges between 2009-10 and 2014-15 was second only to Louisiana’s 62%, but California’s price remains the lowest in the country.
  • In 2014-15, the published out-of-state tuition and fees at public four-year institutions range from $9,910 in South Dakota and $14,876 in Wyoming to $31,982 in Michigan and $34,331 in Vermont.

What Students Actually Pay

Between 2009-10 and 2014-15, the average net tuition and fee price paid by in-state students at public four-year colleges increased from about $2,030 (in 2014 dollars) to an estimated $3,030.

  • Despite increasing published prices, the average net tuition and fee prices that students paid after taking grant aid and tax benefits into consideration declined between 2004-05 and 2009-10 in public two-year and four-year institutions and in private nonprofit four-year institutions.
  • Full-time students enrolled in private nonprofit institutions receive an average of about $18,870 in grant aid and federal tax benefits to help them pay for college. Average aid is about $6,110 at public four-year institutions and about $5,090 at public two-year colleges.
  • In 2011-12, full-time dependent students from the lowest income quartile paid average net tuition and fees, after grant aid, of $11,300 in the for-profit sector, compared to $2,530 at the lowest price and $9,860 at the highest-price nonprofit institutions.
  • On average, in 2011-12, full-time in-state students at public four-year universities from families with incomes below $30,000 received enough grant aid from all sources combined to cover tuition and fees and to have about $2,300 left to put toward room, board, and other expenses.

Institutional Finances

Over the 10 years from 2001-02 to 2011-12, average education expenditures per full-time equivalent (FTE) student increased by a total of 6% in inflation-adjusted dollars at public doctoral universities and declined by 7% at public two-year colleges.

  • In 2013-14, public colleges and universities received an average of $7,161 per FTE student in state funding — 23% less than the $9,290 (in 2013 dollars) they received in 2007-08.
  • Total state appropriations declined by 16%, from $90.5 billion (in 2013 dollars) in 2007-08 to $76.2 billion in 2013-14; public FTE enrollment increased by 9% over these six years.
  • In 2013-14, state appropriations per FTE student for public colleges and universities ranged from $3,184 in New Hampshire and $3,494 in Colorado to $14,045 in Wyoming and $18,857 in Alaska.
  • Between 1991 and 2011, the percentage of FTE staff members who were faculty increased from 31% to 34% at public institutions and from 29% to 34% at private institutions.

Enrollment Patterns

Between 2010 and 2012, total enrollment in both public and private nonprofit four-year institutions increased by 2%. Enrollment declined by 6% in public two-year colleges and by 10% in for-profit institutions.

  • Growth in public higher education enrollment between 2002 and 2012 ranged from 3% in Illinois to 37% in Florida.
  • The percentage of students beginning college in fall 2012 who enrolled at institutions in their home states ranged from 53% in Vermont and 56% in New Hampshire to 90% in California and Arizona and 91% in Utah.
  • In 2012-13, only 2% of the 2,580 four-year degree-granting colleges and universities in the United States accepted less than 25% of their applicants; 35% of these institutions accepted 90% or more of their applicants.

College Affordability

Average income was lower in inflation-adjusted dollars in 2013 than it had been in 2003 for all but the highest-income families.

  • The $70,821 increase (in 2013 dollars) in the average income of the top 20% of families between 1983 and 2013 compares to an increase of $8,936 for the middle quintile and to an increase of $578 for the lowest quintile of families.
  • Average published tuition and fees for in-state students attending public four-year colleges rose by $6,324 (in 2014 dollars) between 1983 and 2013 — 71% of the increase in income ($8,936) of the middle 20% of families and 9% of the increase in income ($70,821) of the 20% of families in the highest-income bracket.