Average College Costs

Costs Are Rising, But It Could Be Worse

Average College Costs
September 29, 2015

It’s that time of year when all across America, parents drop their children off at college, shedding a tear as they watch their little boy or girl head off into the grown-up world. It’s also the time when parents shed even more tears totaling up the college expenses.

However, it could be worse. While college costs continue to rise, the rate of increase is staying constant and relatively low. That is one of the conclusions from the College Board's Trends in College Pricing 2014 report.

The report showed an average increase of 2.9% in tuition and fees during the 2014-2015 year for in-state students, 3.3% for out-of-state students, and 3.7% at private institutions. That is greater than the 2.0% rate of inflation in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) over the same period, but it continues a trend of slowing the rate of collegiate cost increases. Across all three categories, the increase is lower than the average yearly increases of the past five, ten, or even thirty years.

Unfortunately, since 2003, average increases in income have not kept up with average increases in college costs, except for the wealthiest families. After adjustment for inflation, only the top 5% in income saw a positive change since 2003, and that was merely 1%. The best quintile in income average was the top 20%, who just broke even. Other income quintiles ranged from a 4% drop to an 8% drop in the lowest quintile.

The differential makes it even more difficult for lower-income families to send their children to private colleges. For private non-profit four-year institutions, the average combined tuition and fees with room and board is $42,419, a 3.6% increase from the $40,955 of 2013-2014. Public four-year institutions rose by 3.3% to $32,762 for out-of-state tuition and by 3.0% to $18,943 for in-state tuition. The percentage rise was relatively even between room and board and tuition and fees.

Two-year schools showed a smaller increase in costs, rising by 2.5% to $11,052. For-profit four-year institutions had the smallest increase of all, with tuition and fees rising 1.3% to $15,230 (room and board does not usually apply).

Scholarships, grants, tax credits, and other financial aid mechanisms reduce these costs somewhat, but it is a stretch to say they make college affordable. On average, financial aid reduces the cost of four-year public universities (in-state) to $12,830 with $3,030 in tuition and fees and $9,800 in room and board. With financial aid, private university costs an average of $23,550, and costs at two-year schools average $6,000.

By state, the best four-year collegiate bargain is in Wyoming. They have the lowest four-year in-state tuition costs at $4,646 and are second in out-of-state tuition at $14,876. Vermont costs the most, with the highest out-of-state tuition at $34,331 and the second-highest in-state tuition at $14,419. For two-year institutions, California has the lowest annual tuition and fees by far with $1,429. As for the highest — surprise! It's Vermont again, at $7,320.

For more details and breakdowns by category, download the full report.

While the report contains a lot of interesting information, it really does not matter much for prospective students and their families. The real emphasis must be on finding the best college for your child's interest and needs, and figuring out how to pay for it. Start on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible, and look over all your options for scholarships and financial aid. A good scholarship or aid program can wipe away some of those inevitable parental tears.

Photo ©iStock.com/AJ_Watt

  Conversation   |   35 Comments

Add a Comment

By submitting you agree to our Terms of Service
Erin | 09.29.15 @ 17:32
Even a 2% rise can add thousands of dollars to the bill. It's no wonder many people can no longer afford to attend college.
Sara | 09.29.15 @ 17:34
Sadly I fear by the time my child gets old enough for college it will be so outrageous we will not be able to help her. College is overly expensive.
Sarah | 09.29.15 @ 17:37
It is insane how much it costs to go to college just so you can work.
steven | 09.29.15 @ 17:38
College is unmanageable for most average people. Unless you are a "STAR" athlete or really academically smart scholarships are harder to come by.
Nancy | 09.29.15 @ 17:38
It's sad that a college education is out of the reach of so many people. and this shows that it is just getting worse
Jonathan | 09.29.15 @ 17:46
The main problem with college tuition now is that kids enter into the workforce with sooooo much debt out the gate. Sad part is a lot will not find jobs that afford them to live on their own and be able to pay loans off.
Elaine | 09.29.15 @ 17:46
It is outrageous how much college cost. Not sure how anyone is able to pay this debt off.
Kamie | 09.29.15 @ 17:46
They often say that the first 5 years of your career after graduating is left paying the school off.
Daniel | 09.29.15 @ 17:46
Costs get higher and higher for really no reason. These costs are easily a reason the US falls behind other countries with furthering education
Steffanie | 09.29.15 @ 17:47
We are facing this next year. So much money...
Zanna | 09.29.15 @ 17:51
The reality becomes "how much can we borrow so our kids can go to college?" We are going about this process entirely the wrong way.
Bobbie | 09.29.15 @ 17:53
My older daughter was able to do two semesters without taking on any debt thanks to Financial Aid. She went to a community college while living at home, and I am already talking to my HS Sr. about doing the same. Older daughter has since joined the military, so now I know her costs will be covered. I think out of state tuition is a scam. With all the colleges offering something different, there should be no price difference just because you are coming from another state.
Kate | 09.29.15 @ 17:55
This is why so many American's don't go to school after high school. I can not afford to send my kids to university or college because its going to be way to expensive by they get that age.
Owen | 09.29.15 @ 18:00
It would be worth it if the rate of pay for the degree was better.
Rychana | 09.29.15 @ 18:05
It's a shame the cost of education is so much. People are already struggling from school debt. Now it is going to be even worse.
Kathryn | 09.29.15 @ 18:06
Why is it we make people pay to better their education and in other countries college is free?
Andrea | 09.29.15 @ 18:20
My kids will never be ale to attend college unless they get a full ride. Costs way to much and then you spend your life working to pay it back.
Britt | 09.29.15 @ 18:25
Being a student right now... seriously sucks. :/
Angie | 09.29.15 @ 18:25
It is a shame that many of the kids who graduate college come out carrying a heavy load of debt that must be chipped away at. Even having the degree, there's no guarantee that they'll land a job that pays so well, that their debt is quickly erased.
Chrisitna | 09.29.15 @ 18:28
Paying so much for college is ridiculous. My son ended up dropping out during his junior year to focus on the startup company he founded with a couple friends, and is doing so well. College isn't necessary for everyone.
Selena | 09.29.15 @ 18:32
College just costs way to much for the average person.
Carla | 09.29.15 @ 18:43
It is sad how much it costs to get an education these days. Unless you earn a scholarship, you will be paying for years on student loans.
STOKES | 09.29.15 @ 18:53
This has been the trend for awhile. College is expensive and then there are no jobs when you finish.
Meredith L | 09.29.15 @ 18:55
I did online college through UOPX. It was a great experience but the cost was insane - comparable to bricks and mortar...and all my "teacher" had to do was read our papers. Everything else seemed pretty much automated. Don't get me wrong... I still think college is a great idea - but unfortunately I cannot afford to send my kids!
Amanda | 09.29.15 @ 18:57
It's such a shame that it costs so much to learn. College to me is nothing but a waste of money. Someone with a degree is no better than someone without a degree. Having that degree is just a piece of paper that said hey I spent more money learning more books, if you want to have something useful do a trade school, something that will help you in that career. Now nurses, doctors and such I can see why schooling is necessary, but why 2-3 years of the same subjects that you learned in high school. Why have to have an associates degree to be a manager for a fast food establishment or any other job. So many people would love to go to college to further a interest but can't afford it as prices keep sky rocketing. Most can't earn scholarships and hard working already struggling parents are forced to tell their kids " I'm sorry, we can't afford it" just so sad.
Tina | 09.29.15 @ 19:00
This is why people spend decades in student loan debt. College is just so expensive!
Crystal | 09.29.15 @ 19:22
Personally, higher education should be a right. I wish our system was built differently.
gracie | 09.29.15 @ 19:47
Any rise is hard for families to adjust to. Education is getting more and more expensive and harder to save for as economy changes.
Jackie | 09.29.15 @ 19:51
There is no reason for out of state students to be charged more than students from in state.
Leslie | 09.29.15 @ 20:22
There are so many unemployed college graduates these days, it almost seems like a better idea to to take up a trade that you can learn rather inexpensively at a local community college. It would be great if everyone could get the experience of a 4 year college education, but with these prices, it seems like unless you plan on doing post-graduate studies or becoming a doctor or lawyer, you're wasting your time and money.
Christina | 09.29.15 @ 20:35
Its sad that college is so outrageous.
Chelsey | 09.29.15 @ 20:39
I think college costs are outrageous. I have told my children that there is nothing wrong with learning a trade, or starting with a buisness and working your way up. With so many college degrees, it doesn't even pay to have them. You work almost your entire life just trying to pay them off.
George | 09.29.15 @ 20:39
FAFSA was good to help when my daughter went to school.
Victor | 09.29.15 @ 20:39
It's really bad that USA being the country that it is its not providing free education to college students.
Ron | 09.30.15 @ 00:09
A lot of the fluff in college is student loans as guaranteed income for the colleges. Schools should compete for their means of income, but there is no competition.
$commenter.renderDisplayableName() | 01.16.21 @ 15:19