17 January 2012

Rising college costs, 1990 - 2010

The graph comes from a Moody's report (pdf), via The Dish (the title has been cut off the embed - it said "Tuition vs. other price indices - CPI, cumulative...").

I find this incredible, especially when I remember that from 1968-1972 I paid for four years of graduate school tuition by borrowing $600 per year at 3% interest, deferred until after graduation (I also had a $300 scholarship, but even a total of $2,400 is minuscule compared to what today's students face).

Addendum:  see N. Normal's comment re online courses available from MIT.


  1. I remember in 1980 that tuition at the state school I attended was less than the cost of room and board.

    When our daughter attended a state university 25 years later, it cost four times more than it did when my husband and I went.

    And then there is the cost of textbooks...

  2. $2,400 would probably cover the cost of your text books, lab fees and parking for a year...

    Can we finally admit that not everyone needs a college degree?

  3. I graduated high school in 1997 and my parents just couldn't understand why working a part time job didn't leave me enough money to pay for tuition/books/housing/etc and maybe I just needed a second part time job and what's with all these LOANS?

    I look at tuition at the state college I went to and it's so much more expensive than it was when I started school. I cannot imagine paying college tuition at this rate, which is depressing since I have a toddler.

    And while one could argue that "not everyone needs a college degree," anyone who wants to work something other than a trade DOES need a college degree. I'm trying to get a job right now and am finding ads for RECEPTIONISTS that want a master's degree. What used to be entry level work now REQUIRES a bachelor's degree or higher. I'm afraid that tuition at trade schools are going to trend up... it's already hard to get accepted into an apprentice program.

  4. Don't misinterpret this graph. The cost of college hasn't changed much. What's changed is the proportion that students have to pay, because state subsidies have been dwindling. I wasn't able to find a graph for all states, but this one from Michigan is typical:



  5. Can we finally admit that not everyone needs a college degree?

    Everyone should have the option of trying to obtain a college degree without going into debt for the rest of their lives.

  6. It doesn't seem fair to set up a society and economy where most people need a college degree to get a good job and have a good salary (Put another way, college degree correlates with good salary, high school diploma doesn't), and then make the cost of college go up much faster than inflation, thereby putting it out of the reach of most.

    So, Amy, not everyone needs a college degree, just like not everyone needs to have many opportunities to have a good standard of living.

  7. The federal government is largely responsible for the rise in college costs. Simple economics tells us that prices go up when more money goes chasing after any certain commodity. Government backed loans and grants have added those extra dollars, and colleges have grown to eat up all the extra money supply. The solution is simple but will not be popular.

    We have to cut their available money supply down to size. Professors won't be so eager to require a $300 text if most of their class won't be able to borrow the money for it. Likewise, colleges won't be so eager to spend tens of millions on new sports complexes if they're forced to compete on price for a dwindling number of student dollars.

  8. Simple economics tells us

    When somebody drops that, you can usually stop reading there.

  9. Ridiculous. First of all, this push to get everyone a college degree has diminished the value of those degrees. Unless you specialize in something specific and tangible (like engineering), a bachelor's degree is worth what a high school diploma used to be. Why is college so expensive now? Because universities know that the government will ALWAYS subsidize it. There is no push for schools to not only compete on an academic level, but a financial one as well. It's a scam. I'm not saying that those who WANT to go to college, shouldn't receive help, but both political parties pushing for EVERYONE to attend has exacerbated the problem. Well done.

  10. I agree with the anon comment - If modern students really had to bear the cost of these insane price increases, they'd really have something to protest about.

    But given the cheap money and easy loans from uncle sam, universities have no real barriers to raising costs every year; no incentives to trim cost or make hard choices.

    And, more unbelievably, many large university campuses have become virtualk palaces, with amenities and services better than these kids might ever see again on their own post-degree salaries. So much for the starving student. Pampered, in too many cases, I'd argue.

    I had high hopes the Occupy movement would turn into a protest of high education cost and skyrocketing student debt. But the loud and unemployed youth don't want to kill the golden goose for their younger siblings, I guess.

  11. Public universities and adult education should be free or provided for incredibly paltry fees (about the price of books in the U.S.) as they are in more enlightened, educated, successful and wealthier countries.

  12. I agree with the anon comment - If modern students really had to bear the cost of these insane price increases, they'd really have something to protest about.

    How do you figure they don't? Has there been some kind of debt amnesty that nobody else in the world's heard about?

  13. If government loans are driving up the costs than why are private universities so expensive?

    1. It was actually cheaper for me to attend a private school, including loans than a state school. This was less than ten years ago.

  14. Wouldn't you just love to know about a economic bubble before it bursts?
    College tuition is in a bubble faze. Collapse in some manner is imminent. Why? The free elite college education is ALREADY HERE.


    Free MIT education, with credit for an extra fee, upon exhibiting understanding of the course material!
    Available to all interested people in the world! Autodidacts please apply now!
    Most kids I've told about this say something like: "I need to be forced in a classroom setting to do stuff." What, and be in debt 150K?

    MIT, for love of -----(you fill in the blank) One of the hardest schools to get into in the frikkin' world! For free!
    The internet is going to blow the current corrupted college system all to hell in short order. People are going to start showing up out of the jungles of the Philippines superbly educated - a plate in their lip with some world-changing insight or invention - who knows?
    The world is in enormous flux right now - kids should stay as flexible as possible to move in whatever way is necessary, without falling into traps like these insane college debts.
    For me, I'm happy with TYWKIWDBI. Yipee!

  15. Thank you for the comment N. Normal. I spend quite a long time last night browsing that MIT link, pondering whether to take an online course in my old American Lit field, or perhaps something else.

    I wish I had the time. Sigh.


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