Trends in College Pricing

Trends in College Pricing CoverTrends in College Pricing provides information on changes over time in undergraduate tuition and fees, room and board, and other estimated expenses related to attending colleges and universities. The report, which includes data through 2018-19 from the College Board's Annual Survey of Colleges, reveals the wide variation in prices charged by institutions of different types and in different parts of the country. Of particular importance is the focus on the net prices students actually pay after taking grant 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.

Report findings are organized into the following categories:

Published Prices — National

These are the national average tuition, fee, and room and board charges postsecondary institutions post. They are sometimes called "sticker prices." Students pay these prices if they do not receive any financial aid. Many students receive discounts from the institution, as well as grant aid from other sources that helps them pay the published prices.

Variation in Published Prices

Tuition and fees vary considerably between public and private institutions, between two-year and four-year institutions, across states and regions, and by the types of degrees offered. There is also a wide range of prices within each of these categories.

Net Price

Net price is the published price minus the grant aid — and sometimes the tax credits and deductions — that students receive. Net prices are frequently much lower than published prices and represent the amount students actually pay.

Institutional Finances

Colleges and universities get their revenue from a variety of sources in addition to tuition and fees. These include state and local appropriations for higher education, income from endowments and annual giving, research grants, and hospitals and other enterprises. The paths of these revenue sources, combined with institutional expenditures help to explain rising college prices.

Enrollment and Income

The distribution of students across types of institutions has varied over time, as has the percentage of students who enroll full time. Students study a variety of fields, take some courses on-line, and earn different types of degrees and certificates. The incomes of families in the United States have grown unevenly in recent years. These income patterns help to explain postsecondary enrollment patterns.

Faculty and Staff

This section includes data on composition of staff, salaries and benefits, proportion of faculty members who are tenured, and proportion of faculty members who are full-time.

Inflation Adjustment

The Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers (CPI-U) is used to adjust for inflation. We provide much of our data in constant dollars, adjusting values for changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).