Highlights

Concerns about rising tuition and how students can afford to finance their major investments in postsecondary education are widespread. Solid insights into these questions require accurate and up-to-date information about prices.

Trends in College Pricing 2013 reports on the prices charged by colleges and universities in 2013-14, how prices have changed over time, and how they vary within and across types of institutions, states, and regions. We also provide information on the net prices that students and families actually pay after taking financial aid into consideration. The story is a complicated one, with different students paying different prices at the same institutions, depending on their financial circumstances; on their academic qualifications, athletic ability, or other characteristics; and on their year or program of study.

The information in this report does not answer all of the questions about the cost of producing education or about the prices students pay, but it does  provide a great deal of information that can inform the discussion. A clear message that emerges from the data is that short-term trends can be misleading. In the past few years, as states, institutions, and families have been struggling with the impact of the Great Recession on their budgets, it has been too easy to project the accompanying trend of increasingly rapid price increases far into the future.

The 2013-14 increase in published tuition and fees at public four-year colleges and universities is the smallest we have seen in many years. This does not mean that college is suddenly more affordable, but it does mean that the rapid growth of recent years did not represent a “new normal” for annual price increases. That said, after large increases in grant aid in 2009‑10 and 2010-11, especially from the federal government, growth in this student assistance has not continued. As a result, many students are facing larger increases in the prices they pay, even in the face of smaller increases in published prices.

Published Tuition and Fee and Room and Board Charges

The 2.9% increase in in-state tuition and fees at public four-year institutions in 2013‑14 followed increases of 4.5% in 2012‑13 and 8.5% in 2011-12 and was the smallest percentage increase in over 30 years.

  • Average published tuition and fees for in‐state students at public four-year institutions increased from $8,646 in 2012‑13 to $8,893 in 2013-14. At $9,498, room and board charges account for more than half of the total charges for these students.
  • Average published out-of-state tuition and fees at public four-year institutions rose by $670 (3.1%), from $21,533 in 2012-13 to $22,203 in 2013-14. Average total charges are $31,701.
  • Average published tuition and fees at private nonprofit four-year institutions rose by $1,105 (3.8%), from $28,989 to $30,094 in 2013-14. Average total charges are $40,917.
  • Average published tuition and fees at public two-year colleges increased by $110 (3.5%), from $3,154 in 2012-13 to $3,264 in 2013-14.
  • Estimated average tuition and fees for full-time students in the for-profit sector increased by about $70 (0.5%), from $15,060 in 2012-13 to $15,130 in 2013-14.
  • The average annual real rate of increase in in-state tuition and fees at public four-year colleges and universities from 2003-04 to 2013-14 was 4.2%. For private nonprofit four-year institutions, the average annual real rate of increase was 2.3% over the decade.
  • 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 2013‑14 is $11,093.

  • Twelve percent of full-time students in the public four-year sector attend institutions that did not increase their published tuition prices at all in 2013-14 and another 41% faced increases below 3%; 3% of students attend institutions that increased their prices by 9% or more.
  • In the private nonprofit four-year sector, 70% of full-time students attend institutions that increased their tuition and fees by between 3% and 6% in 2013-14; 25% attend institutions that increased their prices by less than 3%, and less than 1% faced increases of 9% or more.
  • The average published in-state tuition and fee price for undergraduates enrolled at public master’s universities is $7,750, compared to $9,804 at public doctoral universities.
  • The average published tuition and fee price for undergraduates enrolled at private nonprofit master’s universities is $26,798, compared to $37,171 at private doctoral universities.

 

Differences across states

 

  • In 2013-14, the highest published in-state tuition and fees at both public four-year and public two-year institutions are in New Hampshire, where tuition and fees average $14,665 and $6,736, respectively, and Vermont, where the published prices are $13,958 and $7,090.
  • The lowest published in-state tuition and fees at public four-year institutions are $4,404 in Wyoming and $5,885 in Alaska.
  • The lowest published tuition and fees at public two‑year colleges are $1,424 in California and $1,696 in New Mexico.
  • In 2013-14, published tuition and fees for in-state students at flagship universities range from $4,404 in Wyoming and $5,988 in Alaska to $16,496 at the University of New Hampshire and $17,926 at Penn State. In 19 states, the flagship price declined in  constant dollars in 2013-14. The largest increase was 10% in Louisiana.
  • From 2008-09 to 2013-14, percentage increases in in-state tuition and fees at public four-year institutions ranged from 5% in Missouri and 8% in Maryland to 65% in Georgia and 70% in Arizona. Georgia’s $7,823 average tuition remains below the national average of $8,893.
  • From 2008-09 to 2013-14, increases in tuition and  fees at public two-year institutions ranged from 1% in Maine and North Dakota to 62% in Georgia and 111% in California, which still has the lowest prices in the country.
  • In 2013-14, the highest published out-of-state tuition and fees at public four-year institutions are in Michigan ($31,463) and Vermont ($34,055).

What Students Actually Pay

Because of increases in aid, the average net price for full-time in-state public four-year college students was $650 lower (in 2013 dollars) in 2009-10 than it was in 2008‑09. However, between 2009-10 and  2013‑14, average net price increased from $1,940 (in 2013 dollars) to about $3,120.

  • From 1999-00 through 2011-12, average grant aid from all sources covered tuition and fees for students from families with incomes below $30,000 (in 2011 dollars) enrolled in public two-year and public four-year institutions.
  • In 2011-12, net tuition and fees at public four-year colleges and universities ranged from $0 for the lowest-income group to $8,070 for the highest-income group.
  • On average, net tuition and fees for private nonprofit four-year institutions are lower in inflation-adjusted dollars in 2013-14 than they were a decade earlier — $12,460 versus $13,600. However, average net price has increased from $11,550 in 2011-12 to an estimated $12,460 in 2013-14.
  • In 2013-14, full-time students at public two-year colleges receive an average of about $4,810 in grant aid from all sources and tax benefits to help them pay the average $3,264 published tuition and fees, plus some of their other expenses.

Institutional Finances

From 2000-01 to 2010-11, the inflation-adjusted ten-year percentage changes in education expenditures per FTE student at public institutions were 3% to 5% increases at four-year institutions and a 11% decrease at two-year colleges.

  • In 2012-13, public institutions received an average $6,646 per full-time equivalent (FTE) student in state funding — 27% less than the $9,111 (in 2012 dollars) they received five years earlier.
  • Total state appropriations declined by 19%, from $88.7 billion (in 2012 dollars) in 2007-08 to $72.0 billion in 2012-13; FTE enrollment in public institutions increased by 11% over these five years.
  • In 2012-13, state appropriations per FTE student for public colleges and universities ranged from $2,482 in New Hampshire and $3,312 in Colorado to $15,101 in Wyoming and $17,253 in Alaska.
  • Between 1976 and 2011, the percentage of FTE staff members who were faculty increased from 33% to 35% at public institutions and from 32% to 35% at private institutions.

Enrollment Patterns

Between 2010 and 2011, enrollment grew by 123,000 (2%) in the public four-year sector and by 66,000 (2%) in the private nonprofit four-year sector. Enrollment in public two-year colleges was 159,000 (2%) lower in 2011 than it had been the previous year; it was 68,000 (3%) lower in the for-profit sector.

  • Over the decade from fall 2001 to fall 2011, total FTE enrollment in public two-year and four-year institutions grew by 48% in Georgia and in Florida. The lowest growth rates were 11% in Louisiana and 12% in Illinois.
  • In fall 2011, in five states, 50% or more of public FTE enrollments were in public two-year colleges. In 10 states, that percentage was 20% or lower.
  • In 2011, only 2% of the 2,543 four-year degree-granting colleges and universities in the U.S. accepted less than 25% of their applicants; 4% of FTE undergraduate students were enrolled at these  institutions. The 50% of four-year institutions that were open admission or accepted at least 75% of  their applicants accounted for 40% of all FTE  enrollments.

College Affordability

Average incomes for families in the middle quintile and above increased between 2011 and 2012, but real incomes remained lower (after adjusting for inflation) at all levels of the income distribution than they had been in 2002.

  • From 2002 to 2012, declines in family incomes ranged from 13% over the decade for the bottom quintile to less than 0.5% for the top quintile.
  • In 2012, the $101,909 median family income for families headed by a four-year college graduate was more than twice the median income for families headed by a high  school graduate.