Price check: Tuition is climbing again, but not as high as inflation

More colleges and universities raised tuition and fees in 2022-23 than in the previous two years.

Higher ed leaders are not using college tuition increases to pass the costs of stubbornly high inflation onto students and families, a new analysis finds.

That said, more colleges and universities raised tuition and fees in 2022-23 than in the previous two years, the College Board reports in its latest look at financial aid trends.

Many colleges and universities froze tuition for the two school years most severely disrupted by the pandemic. In 2022-23,  average sticker prices and fees are 1.8% higher for public four-year in-state students and 3.5% higher for private nonprofit institutions. At two-year institutions, college tuition and fees rose by 1.6% for in-district students.

More from UB: Enrollments tumble 1.1% in early fall reporting, but is a recovery on the way? 

But accounting for 8% inflation, tuition and fees actually dropped in all three sectors even though private institutions hiked their sticker prices more than public schools did, the College Board reports. Here are their key findings regarding average college tuition:

  • Public four-year in-state average tuition: $10,940—$190 higher than in 2021-22 (1.8% increase before adjusting for inflation)
  • Public four-year out-of-state: $28,240—$620 higher than in 2021-22 (2.2% before adjusting for inflation)
  • Private nonprofit four-year: $39,400—$1,330 higher than in 2021-22 (3.5% before adjusting for inflation)
  • Public two-year in-district: $3,860—$60 higher than in 2021-22 (1.6% before adjusting for inflation)

How financial aid is impacting college tuition

The average tuition and fees paid by students have been declining at public and private four-year schools and two-year institutions over the last decade. In 2022-23, the average in-state student paid $2,250 to attend a four-year school while the average tuition and fees at private institutions were $14,630.

The bad news is that Pell Grants and other federal aid programs are being hammered by inflation. Pell Grants declined by
36% ($14.6 billion) while total federal grant aid decreased by 32% in inflation-adjusted dollars between 2011-12 and 2021-22, the College Board found.

Here are the other important details administrators need to know about financial aid:

  • In 2021-22, undergraduate students received an average of $15,330 per full-time equivalent (FTE) student in financial aid.
  • Pell Grant expenditures peaked in 2010-11 at $44.3 billion (in 2021 dollars) and plunged to $25.9 billion in 2021-22—a 42% decline.
  • 9.3 million students received Pell Grants in 2010-11 but only 6.1 million did in 2021-22—a 35% decline.
  • The average Pell Grant amount peaked at $4,760 in 2010-11 and slipped to $4,250 in 2021-22.
  • Between 2011-12 and 2021-22, federal loans to undergraduates fell by 50%, while federal loans to graduate students declined by 9%.

The third major trend the College Board analyzed was a steady decline in the amount of money college students are borrowing. That number grew rapidly between 2006-07 and 2011-12 but declined by nearly 50% in 2021-22 when students and parents borrowed $94.7 billion (compared to $141.6 billion a decade earlier). A few more facts to know about debt:

  • 51% of public, four-year bachelor’s degree recipients graduated with an average federal debt level of $21,400 per borrower in 2021-22.
  • 53% of private, nonprofit bachelor’s degree recipients finished school with an average federal debt level of $22,600.
  • As of March 2022, 33% of borrowers owed less than $10,000 and 21% of borrowers owed between $10,000 and $20,000 in federal loans. These borrowers held 4% and 8% of the outstanding federal debt, respectively.
  • As of March 2022, 24% of the $1.62 trillion outstanding federal loan balance was held by borrowers 50 and older, up from 18% in 2017.
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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