College Tuition is Rising at a Slower Pace Than Inflation

October 29, 2021

The price of a college education seems to increase year after year, but with the price of everything increasing these days, tuition has become more affordable.

Amid lower enrollment since the pandemic began, this year’s increases in tuition and fees are very low by historic standards, according to a report from the College Board.

For the 2021-22 academic year, average tuition and fees at two-year schools rose by 1.3%, climbing to $3,800. Tuition for in-state students at four-year public colleges climbed 1.6%, reaching $10,740, and students at four-year private institutions are paying 2.1% more, for a total of $38,070.

This means that, when adjusting for inflation, which jumped 5.4% year-over-year in September, average tuition and fees actually declined across the board.

Despite the temporary reprieve from higher tuition costs this year, many experts argue that the cost of a degree has already reached an unsustainable level. Tuition has steadily increased for decades but skyrocketed during the Great Recession. As government funding decreased, colleges made up the shortfall by hiking tuition. In the 1990s tuition accounted for roughly one-quarter of a college’s revenue, with the rest coming from state and local governments. Today, government funding accounts for just half of college revenue, with the rest coming from tuition. This has created a bigger burden for students and their families, who have increasingly turned to student loans to cover their educational expenses.

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