The price of attending a public four-year college has risen 27 percent beyond inflation over the past five years, according to the College Board. The costs have also gone up 24 percent at community colleges and 13 percent at private universities.
The increasing prices aren’t just due to the rising cost of tuition, but also thanks to higher fees for room and board. In-state students at public four-year colleges paid more for housing and food last year than tuition, although both increased substantially. In-state students at two-year schools paid 6 percent more in tuition and 1 percent more for room and board, while those at private schools paid 4 percent more for tuition and fees.
Tuition has long been on the rise, going up an average of more than 8 percent last year and growing six-fold since the 1980s. Some of this has been driven by a drop in state funding for higher education, but other factors include a sharp growth in administrative positions, a big increase in the cost of funding athletic programs, and some schools even investing in gourmet food offerings and million-dollar recreational facilities to lure students.
Even as costs rise, parents are contributing less to their children’s higher educations than three years ago. To help pay for college costs, many students are holding down jobs while they study, putting in an average of 19 hours on the job.
Increased college tuition is also helping to drive the growing load of student debt, which has reached over $1 trillion total. People under 30 collectively spend $43.5 billion a year paying back student loans, money that could instead buy more than 155,000 homes and help boost the economy.