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, policy research scientist at the College Board, with invaluable assistance from D’Wayne Bell and Diane Cardenas Elliott.

For inquiries regarding Trends in College Pricing, please contact:

Sandy Baum,

Jennifer Ma,

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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.
© 2014 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 2014-15 are from an online questionnaire distributed in October 2013, with data collected and reviewed through early September 2014. Tuition and fee figures are based on charges to full-time 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 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. Tables reporting unweighted tuition data can be found online at

The most recent enrollment data available are for fall 2013. For 2013-14 and earlier years, prices are weighted by same-year enrollments. For 2014-15, prices are weighted by fall 2013 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 the distribution of full-time students across institutions. Weighted averages for each price are based on relevant populations:

  • 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.
  • 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 are not available on out-of-state students receiving a waiver of the full tuition premium or a portion of it.
  • In-state tuition and fees are weighted by full-time undergraduate enrollment.
  • Estimated other student budget components are weighted as follows:
    • Books and supplies are weighted by full-time undergraduate enrollment.
    • Resident transportation and other resident expenses are weighted by the number of undergraduates living in campus housing.
    • Commuter room and board, commuter transportation, and other commuter expenses are weighted by the number of commuting undergraduates at each institution.

Institutions Included in Calculations

Out of the 3,678 public two-year, public four-year, private nonprofit four-year, and for-profit institutions that were surveyed in both 2012 and 2013, 3,105 were included in this year’s analysis, including over 98% of the surveyed schools in the public and private nonprofit sectors and 39% 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 number of institutions that were included in this analysis, by sector and Carnegie Classification, respectively.

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

 Number of Institutions Included in Table 1A Analysis

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

Number of Institutions Included in Table 1B Analysis

Revisions of Base-Year Values

The prices for 2013-14 used in this analysis differ somewhat from the 2013-14 averages reported last year. One factor contributing to the revision is the reweighting of the prices, shifting from fall 2012 to fall 2013 full-time enrollment figures. The base-year numbers also shift because some institutions submit revised tuition figures for the previous year. The recomputed average for 2013-14 tuition and fees at public four-year institutions is $8 lower than the level we reported last year for in-state students and $20 higher for out-of-state students. Compared to the average tuition and fee prices we reported last year, the recomputed average for 2013-14 tuition and fees is $23 lower for public two-year in-district students and $37 higher 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. In addition, IPEDS tuition and fee data may be based on 24 semester
hours while the Annual Survey of Colleges data are based on 30 semester hours. Annual historical data are available online at

Net Price Calculations

The calculations of average net price for full-time undergraduates in Figures 11, 12, and 13, as well as the calculations in online Table 7, are a best approximation and are based on the aggregate amounts of each type of aid reported in Trends in Student Aid 2014 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 when such detailed information is not available in specific program data. Because financial aid data for 2014-15 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 2013 because some figures have been updated.

Net price and grant totals in Figures 11, 12, and 13 are not comparable to those in Figures 14A, 14B, 15A, and 15B, which are based on NPSAS data over time. In addition, Figures 11, 12, and 13 take into account tax benefits and deductions, while Figures 14A, 14B, 15A, and 15B do not.

Institutional Revenues and Expenditures

Figures 18A, 18B, 19A, and 19B are based on data from the IPEDS Delta Cost data and the IPEDS 2011-12 finance data. Delta Cost 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 available for 2011-12, 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 provides CPI data for 2004 through 2014. Additional historical data are available online. Each Factor column provides the user with a multiplication factor equal to the CPI in the base year (say, 2014) divided by the CPI of the year in question. A simple multiplication of a current-year figure by the associated factor will yield a constant-dollar result.

Carnegie Classification 2010: Basic Classification

“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.”


This publication benefited from comments by Jack Buckley, Melanie Corrigan, Michael Hurwitz, and Anne Sturtevant. Barbara Kridl and her colleagues at RTI International provided expert graphic design work, as well as advice on content. The publication would not have been possible without the cooperation and support of many people at the College Board, including Doris Chow, Jessica Howell, Donovan Hylton, Silvia Ivanova, Kathryn McGinley, and Suzette Stone-Busa.

We thank all of those who contributed to the data collection for this publication, including institutional research department staff and campus administrators who provided us with invaluable data through the Annual Survey of Colleges. We thank Samuel Barbett of the U.S. Department of Education for providing us with IPEDS enrollment data and Kenneth Redd of NACUBO for providing us with the NACUBO endowment data.

Defining Terms

“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.