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College Tuition Costs Remain Stable Over Past Decade

February 5, 2014

The rise in college tuition is no new affair- most people have accumulated quite a bit of student debt. In the past decade, the published prices of universities have increased by more than 20%. In fact, universities are starting to worry about possibly approaching the “breaking point” in their ability to continue raising the tuition prices. The increase in inexpensive online courses has given universities reason for concern, too, in that prospective students might find the appeal of a more practical education appealing.

Published vs. Net TuitionSource: The College Board, Annual Survey of Colleges

However, even with tuition continuing to rise, the amount that students actually pay has hardly fluctuated over the past ten years due to increased grants, discounts and tax benefits. According to a major analysis of the cost of college by the College Board, when looking only at tuition and fees, the inflation-adjusted net price is lower than it was ten years ago.

It seems to have gone unnoticed that, although the published prices for colleges that are not adjusted for inflation have jumped more than 50% in recent years, universities are giving more in financial aid and tuition discounts. Richard Ekman, president of the Council of Independent Colleges, says, “Colleges have tried to get the word out for years about discounting and net prices, but ‘it hasn’t been terribly successful’”.

tuition tableSource: The College Board, Annual Survey of Colleges

In fact, prospective students have much more access to the financial information in that universities are now required to post net price calculators on their websites, but it has become evident that the public has had trouble understanding the numbers. Some universities have tried to lower their tuition prices and offset the prices be reducing the discounts given to students, but it has not been incredibly effective- many would rather attend an expensive university and receive a scholarship to go there than go to a more economical school without a reduction in price.

Although published college tuition prices are continually rising, is the idea of pursuing higher education more appealing knowing that the net price has remained fairly stable over the years?

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