The average college tuition cost has more than doubled since the baby boomers went to college. Who’s to blame for that increase is a topic for a different time. In this text, we’ll lay out the past and current costs of attending a university in order to find out whether college is worth it in 2019. The statistics listed below cover 1971 to 2036 and will teach you a few things about this changing subject. What’s more, they may just convince you to start saving for your child’s education before they’re even born.
The 10 Key Average College Tuition Facts and Stats
- In-state students at a public college pay an average of $9,970 in tuition and fees per year.
- Out-of-state students at a public college pay an average of $25,620 in tuition and fees per year.
- College tuition in 1985 was $10,696 a year on average.
- By 2015, college tuition jumped to an average of $22,432 yearly.
- College cost statistics show that room and board can reach $20,000 per year, even in public colleges.
- Attending Harvard cost $47,730 this year in tuition alone.
- After grants and scholarships, the average net price of tuition and fees that students attending private universities paid last year was $14,610.
- It costs more than $100,000 to attend college for four years.
- Attending a public college will cost $162,818 total in 2036.
- Meanwhile, a private college degree is projected to total $303,503 in 2036.
The History of College Tuition Costs
1. The yearly tuition for an undergraduate degree in 1985 was an average of $10,696, adjusted for inflation.
(National Center for Education Statistics–NCES)
The cost of tuition, fees, room, and board averaged $12,052 a year for all four-year colleges, while two-year degrees cost $7,373. The figures shown include both private and public colleges in the US. During 1985, public colleges charged an average of $7,820, while private institutions required $19,454 per year to attend (these figures include both two-year and four-year schools).
2. College tuition in 1995 was around $13,572.
A decade later, it cost almost $3,000 more to get a degree. Four-year institutions were to blame for the price increase, as the average cost of attendance increased to $15,913 in the 1995–96 school year. Data on the average college tuition by year shows that two-year institutions actually reduced their tuitions slightly, to $7,287. Altogether, public colleges at the time cost $7,820 on average. Private college tuition averaged $26,540.
3. The average cost of tuition was $14,724 in 2000.
Moving up five years into the now-distant year 2000, college tuition increased once again. For four-year institutions, students needed to pay an average of $17,586 per year, while those who opted to get a two-year degree paid $7,439. The cost of higher education in a public institution had an average price of $10,324 for a year, while private university attendees paid $29,086.
4. In 2005, college tuition was about $17,532 on average.
2005 was the year when the average price of attending a four-year college exceeded the $20K mark, with the average price of $20,897. A two-year degree was $8,664 per year during this time. Public colleges increased their prices to $12,518 on average, while a year at a private college cost $32,220.
5. In 2010, college tuition averaged $19,912.
Right after the recession, as the economy started recovering, the average college tuition in the US increased again. Four-year colleges now took $23,790 per year, and two-year schools required $9,558, on average. Yearly tuition in public schools averaged at $14,621 for two-year and four-year degrees, while in private schools it increased to $34,353.
6. In 2015, college tuition averaged $22,432.
For the 2015–16 school year, there was another increase in yearly costs for college students in the US. Students getting their Bachelor’s degree paid an average of $26,120 for the year. Those in Associate programs paid an average of $10,432. In public colleges, the yearly cost for 2015 averaged at $16,757, and in private schools, it sat at $39,011.
The Average College Tuition by State
7. College in New Hampshire costs around $16,070.
New Hampshire carries the title of the most expensive state when it comes to tuition for its in-state students. And the out-of-state tuition is also high, averaging at $28,430. As a note, these numbers don’t include room and board, just tuition and fees. For those interested in the overall average cost of public college on a national level, the national education statistics show that tuition for in-state students is $9,970 and $25,620 for out-of-state students.
8. The average cost of college in Wyoming is $5,220.
The title of lowest average tuition for in-state students goes to Wyoming. Tuition for their out-of-state peers is also reasonable, averaging at $16,830.
9. It costs $6,360 on average for college in Florida.
Florida has the second-lowest average tuition rate in the US for in-state students, according to the recent college cost statistics. Those who aren’t Florida residents had to pay an average of $21,880 in tuition and fees for the year. Similar prices are expected for 2019, as with the other schools on the list.
10. On average, it costs $16,040 for college in Vermont.
This state has the second-highest in-state tuition, and its out-of-state average is the highest in the US. An out-of-state student will pay $38,990 for a year of public college in Vermont, according to data on the average college tuition from 2018.
11. The average in-state college tuition in Alabama is $10,530.
State colleges are far less expensive than private ones, as evident by the previous section of this text. However, even public colleges can get expensive for out-of-state students. The figure shown ($10,530) represents the average public college in-state tuition for the state of Alabama, while out-of-state tuition for the state stands at $25,760.
12. The average cost of college in California is $9,680.
In-state students paid $9,860 in tuition for a state college in the 2018–19 school year. This makes California one of the cheaper states to attend college. However, out-of-state students had a much more expensive experience when it comes to tuition payments, with an average yearly fee of $32,690.
13. The average cost is $10,660 in Hawaii.
Hawaii residents pay $10,660 to go to school in their home state, on average. Those who wish to study here, but come from other parts of the US can expect to pay a whopping $31,090 in yearly tuition and fees, the average college costs for the state clearly indicate. This still doesn’t make Hawaii the most expensive state to study in.
14. The average cost to attend college in South Dakota is $8,450.
In-state tuition in South Dakota is considered reasonable. What separates this state from the others is the out-of-state tuition average—the lowest in the US, it stands at $12,480.
15. The average cost of college in Texas is $9,840.
Texas residents pay under $10K a year for college, according to the averages. Students who are considered out-of-state have to dedicate significantly more funds to their tuition, as they pay an average of $26,640.
16. The cost of college in Washington is $9,480 on average.
Washington is similar to Texas and some other states on this list in that there’s a wide difference between what in-state and out-of-state students pay. In-state students pay under $10K, and those who aren’t state residents pay $29,300, on average.
The Cost of Attending the Best Public Colleges in the US
17. The average cost of a 4-year degree at the University of California, Berkeley, comes out to $14,254 a year.
UC Berkeley is one of the most popular colleges in the US, with over 137,000 undergraduate applications last year. Tuition and fees for in-state students are $14,254. Room and board cost extra, anywhere from $13,692 to $20,000, depending on the type of accommodation. Out-of-state residents add another $29,754 in nonresident supplemental tuition, the college stresses.
18. The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor costs $15,558 a year.
(Forbes, University of Michigan)
The Midwest has been even more affected by the rising cost of college than the West Coast. The class of 2023 can expect to pay $15,558 in tuition to the University of Michigan if they’re coming from the state. Those from other states, as well as international students, will be paying $51,200 for their first year of college. Room and board are extra, at $11,996 for all students.
19. The yearly cost of attending the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, is $16,640–$26,956.
(Forbes, University of Virginia)
Those attending the University of Virginia in Charlottesville can expect variable tuition costs, depending on their major and the school they’ve chosen. The average college tuition at this institution is around $18,000 for Virginians, while non-Virginians will pay an average of $55,000 for the year. Housing, food, books, supplies, and other expenses average $16,368.
20. It costs $15,236 to attend the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.
(Forbes, University of Minnesota)
In-state tuition for the University of Minnesota amounts to $15,236. Out-of-state students will pay $33,534 for 2019. Even though these college tuition rates are already fairly high, future and current students at this university should add $10,358 in room and board costs, as well as $3,000 for books and other expenses.
21. Tuition for Texas A&M University, College Station, is $10,862.
(Forbes, Texas A&M University)
Texas residents will pay the amount above for a year at Texas A&M in College Station, while their out-of-state fellow students will need to pay $37,890 for the 2019–20 school year. The yearly expenses don’t end there, as housing and meals cost $10,400.
Average Private College Tuition: The Cost of Attending the Best Private Colleges in the US
22. The yearly average tuition for attending Harvard University is $47,730.
In the 2019–20 school year, Harvard remains the number-one dream school for hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Last year, 43,330 of them applied to this school, and just 4.5% were offered a spot. This private institution costs $47,730 per year. This number only includes tuition. When fees, room, board, and estimated personal expenses are included, the yearly total per student can easily exceed $80,000.
23. Attending Stanford University costs $52,857 per year.
For those who want to study in California, Stanford might be their first choice. Freshmen in 2019 are expected to spend a total of $74,570 during their first year at this prestigious college. However, after grants and scholarships, the average cost of college could be closer to $14,610, which is the average net price of tuition and fees paid by students of private universities last year.
24. It costs $52,506 a year to go to the California Institute of Technology.
Caltech’s tuition pricing is similar to Stanford. When fees, room, board, books, and personal expenses are included in the price, it increases to $74,763.
25. Attending the University of Notre Dame costs $55,553 a year.
(University of Notre Dame)
The average cost of college in 2019 continues to stay high with Notre Dame. Tuition and fees are $55,553, while students pay $74,193 when room, meals, books, transportation, and personal expenses are taken into account. According to this University’s scholarship stats, the median scholarship for first-year students who demonstrate financial need covers $38,900.
26. Attending Columbia University costs $59,430 per year.
(US News, Columbia University)
Those who wish to study in New York City will have to prepare their bank accounts—an education at this college comes at an even higher premium than the others mentioned before. A single semester at Columbia College costs $29,460. However, a semester in their dental school will run you $74,394—just shy of $150,000 for the year.
The College Tuition Increase: Statistics and Facts
27. In 1971, it cost $1,832 to go to a private college.
A typical private college cost an equivalent of $1,832 in today’s money in 1971. Additionally, public colleges charged an average of $500 for tuition and fees back then as well.
28. The cost of a four-year degree doubled between 1989 and 2016.
During this period, a typical four-year university increased its prices by 2.6% every year. According to Forbes, the total average cost of a Bachelor’s degree is now $104,480. This has made student loans the biggest part of the US non-housing debt, superseding credit card and auto loan debt.
29. The price of college is increasing 8 times faster than wages.
(Forbes, Education Week)
While college tuition grew by 2.6% every year, wages slacked behind, growing by just 0.3%. College tuition rising faster than inflation is another major issue, and it’s mainly caused by the greed that some higher education institutions exhibit as they keep spending millions on unnecessary things. For example, football coaches can make up to $11 million a year, while professors typically peak at $250,000.
30. In 1971, Harvard students spent $2,600 on tuition.
Almost half a century ago, Harvard was an expensive school, same as today. It was considered a dramatic move when the University increased its tuition fee by $200 in 1971. If the cost of college over time had tracked the inflation rate, attending Harvard today would cost $15,189. Prices climbed again in 1972, the year Bill Gates started attending Harvard. At that time, tuition reached $3,000, or an equivalent of $18,209 today.
31. From 2008 to 2018, the average cost of private college tuition rose by $7,390.
Tuition has increased immensely during the last decade. In addition, the average cost of college at public two-year schools increased by $930. Public four-year schools increased their prices by $2,760.
32. 44% of mothers wish they started saving for college sooner.
During a recent survey that included more than 600 mothers with teenagers, 44% of them said they wished they had started saving for college as soon as their child was born. The average college tuition in 2019 is a burden on millions of Americans’ budgets, and mothers (more than just the 600 surveyed) share that their main concerns are the costs of healthcare, sorting their finances before the baby arrives, and future college costs.
33. Parents with a one-year-old will spend $162,818 for an in-state public college in 2036.
According to Savingforcollege.com and their interactive tuition calculator, families who now have a one-year-old child should start saving immediately, as even an in-state public college will cost them a fortune. Meanwhile, how much will college cost in 18 years for a private institution? Around double the former amount: $303,503 just for tuition and fees for a four-year degree. If parents start putting $250 every month into their child’s college fund (i.e., a 529 plan, not a regular savings account), they’ll save $3,276, which might cover book expenses for the first year.
After seeing how much it costs to attend college in 2019, and how greatly the average college tuition will increase in less than 20 years from now, some doubts about attending college are unavoidable. However, education is priceless. Even though it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and plenty are unable to afford it, college is definitely worth the effort and money it takes. Who knows, maybe the US will cut down on other spending in the next two decades and allocate some of it to education.