Notes & Sources

Trends in College Pricing was authored by Sandy Baum, senior fellow at the Urban Institute and research professor at the George Washington University Graduate School of Human Development, and Jennifer Ma, independent consultant for the College Board, with invaluable assistance from Charles Kurose.

For inquiries regarding Trends in College Pricing, please contact:

Sandy Baum,

Jennifer Ma,

Hard copies may be ordered by contacting

Tables, graphs and data in this report or excerpts thereof may be reproduced or cited, for noncommerical purposes only, provided that the following attribution is included:

Source: Trends in College Pricing.
© 2013 The College Board.

The Annual Survey of Colleges

Prices described in this report are based on data reported to the College Board by colleges and universities in the Annual Survey of Colleges. Data for 2013-14 are from an online questionnaire distributed in October 2012, with data collected and reviewed through early September 2013. Tuition and fee figures are based on charges to fulltime undergraduate students over the course of a nine-month academic year of 30 semester hours or 45 quarter hours. For those institutions with tuition and fees that vary by year of study, weighted average undergraduate tuition levels are used in the analysis. We are not able to estimate differences in tuition and fees by program, but rely on the average prices reported by institutions.

Enrollment-Weighted and Unweighted Data

This report provides enrollment-weighted average prices. Charges reported by colleges with larger full-time enrollments are weighted more heavily than those of institutions with smaller enrollments.

Enrollment-weighted and unweighted averages describe different phenomena. The weighted averages may be more helpful to students and families in anticipating future education expenses. Some researchers, policy analysts, and academic administrators find unweighted averages useful in studying longitudinal trends and evaluating a particular institution’s practices against a larger set. Thus, the College Board computes both weighted and unweighted averages. 

The most recent enrollment data available are for fall 2012. For 2012‑13 and earlier years, prices are weighted by same-year enrollments. For 2013-14, prices are weighted by fall 2012 full-time enrollments. In other words, the percentage changes reported in Tables 1A and 1B reflect only price changes, not changes in enrollment patterns. In contrast, the historical data on changes in enrollment-weighted prices reported in Tables 2A and 2B reflect changes in both prices and in the distribution of full-time students across institutions.

Weighted averages for each price are based on relevant populations:

  • In-state tuition and fees are weighted by full-time undergraduate enrollment.
  • Out-of-state tuition and fees are calculated by adding the nonresident premium, weighted by full-time out-of-state enrollment, to average in-state tuition and fees. Data on out-of-state students receiving a waiver of some or all of the tuition premium are not available.
  • Resident room and board charges are weighted by the number of undergraduates living in campus housing at each institution.
  • Out-of-district charges for public two-year college students are not accounted for in the average prices reported here.
  • Estimated other student budget components are weighted as follows:
    • Books and supplies are weighted by full-time undergraduate enrollment.
    • Resident transportation and other resident costs are weighted by the number of undergraduates living in campus housing.
    • Commuter room and board, commuter transportation, and other commuter costs are weighted by the number of commuting undergraduates at each institution.

Institutions Included in Calculations

Out of the 3,746 public two-year, public four-year, private nonprofit four-year, and for-profit institutions that were surveyed in both 2012 and 2013, 3,120 were included in this year’s analysis, including over 98% of the surveyed schools in the public and private nonprofit sectors and 38% of those in the for-profit sector. Our imputation process allows us to include schools for which we are missing one year of data. We exclude from our calculations military academies and other institutions that report zero tuition. Tables A1A and A1B describe the institutions that were included in this analysis, by sector and Carnegie Classification, respectively.

Table A1A: Institutions Included in Tuition and Fees (T&F) Analysis in Table 1A

Table A1B: Institutions Included in Tuition and Fees (T&F) Analysis in Table 1B

Download Excel Data for Tables A1A and A1B

Revision of Base-Year Values

The prices for 2012-13 used in this analysis differ somewhat from the 2012‑13 averages reported last year. One factor contributing to the revision is the reweighting of the prices, shifting from fall 2011 to fall 2012 full-time enrollment figures. The base-year numbers also shift because several hundred institutions submit revised tuition figures for the previous year. The recomputed average for 2012-13 tuition and fees at public four-year institutions is $9 lower than the level we reported last year for in-state students and $173 lower for out-of-state students. Compared to the average tuition and fee prices we reported last year, the recomputed average for 2012-13 tuition and fees is $13 higher for public two-year in-state students and $67 lower for private nonprofit four-year students.

Longitudinal Data

In Tables 2A and 2B, tuition averages from years prior to 1987‑88 are extracted from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). The two data sets, IPEDS and the College Board’s Annual Survey of Colleges, track very closely, but IPEDS averages are weighted by full-time equivalent enrollments, while the Annual Survey of Colleges prices are weighted by full-time enrollments.

Net Price Calculations

The calculations of average net price for full-time undergraduates in Figures 10 and 11, as well as the calculations in online Tables 7 and 8, are a best approximation and are based on the aggregate amounts of each type of aid reported in Trends in Student Aid 2013 and on the allocation of each type of aid across institution types and between part‑time and full-time students reported in 1993, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) data. Because financial aid data for 2013‑14 are not yet available, amounts for that year are estimated based on past years. Total charges for public two-year students include an estimate of housing and food expenses for students not living with their parents, based on commuter room and board expenses reported by institutions when available and derived from public four-year room and board charges for earlier years in the analysis. The net price estimates reported here are not exactly comparable to those that appeared in 2012 because some figures have been updated.

Net price and grant totals in Figures 10 and 11 are not comparable to those in Figures 12 and 13, which are based on NPSAS data over time. In addition, Figures 10 and 11 take into account of tax benefits and deductions, while Figures 12 and 13 do not.

Institutional Revenues and Expenditures

Figures 16A–C and 17A–B are based on data from the IPEDS Delta Cost data and the IPEDS 2010-11 finance data. Delta data combine IPEDS data with information from the Financial Institution Shared Assessments Program database beginning in 1994. Further details and the entire database are available at Because Delta Cost data are not yet available for 2010-11, revenues and expenditures for that year are based on IPEDS data and calculations by the authors to match Delta Cost definitions and categories.


Data on endowments are from the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) and Commonfund Institute, supplemented by data from IPEDS for institutions for which NACUBO or Commonfund data are not available. Public university foundation endowment assets are included.

Inflation Adjustment

The Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers (CPI-U) is used to adjust for inflation. We use the CPI-U in July of the year in which the academic year begins. See for changes in the CPI-U over time. Table A2 below provides CPI data for 2003 through 2013. Additional historical data are available here. The Factor columns provide the user with a multiplication factor equal to that of CPI (base year, say 2013 or 2012) divided by CPI (current year). A simple multiplication of a current-year figure by the associated factor will yield a constant-dollar result.

Table A2: Consumer Price Index: All Urban Consumers, Not Seasonally Adjusted, All Items, U.S. City Average, 1982-84=10
Table A2: Consumer Price Index: All Urban Consumers, Not Seasonally Adjusted, All Items, U.S. City Average, 1982-84=10

Download Excel Data for Table A2

Carnegie Classification 2010: Basic Classification

In 2012, we updated our Carnegie Classification with the 2010 update. In previous years, we had been using the 2005 edition. The number of institutions in each Carnegie Classification changed slightly from 2005 to the 2010 update, although the classification structure of the 2010 update is the same as that for the 2005 edition.

“Doctoral universities” include institutions that award at least 20 doctoral degrees per year (excluding doctoral degrees that qualify recipients for entry into professional practice, such as the J.D., M.D., Pharm.D., DPT, etc.); “master’s colleges and universities” include institutions that award at least 50 master’s degrees per year; “bachelor’s colleges” include institutions where bachelor’s degrees represent at least 10% of all undergraduate degrees and that award fewer than 50 master’s degrees or fewer than 20 doctoral degrees per year. All of the categories above exclude “special focus institutions” and “tribal colleges.”

Defining Terms

According to the 1997 National Commission on the Cost of Higher Education, defining “cost,” “price,” and “subsidy” is critical to clarifying the issues in financing postsecondary education.

“Costs” refer to the expenditures associated with delivering instruction, including physical plant and salaries.

“Prices” are the expenses that students and parents face.

“Published price” is the price institutions charge for tuition and fees as well as room and board, in the case of students residing on campus. A full student expense budget also includes books, supplies, transportation, and other basic living costs.

“Net price” is what the student and/or family must cover after grant aid and savings from tax credits and deductions are subtracted.

“General subsidies” make it possible for institutions to charge less than the actual costs of instruction. State, federal, and local appropriations, as well as private philanthropy, reduce the prices faced by all students — whether or not they receive financial aid.