Factors Affecting the Future of Higher Education: Increased Cost

December 8, 2012

Dr. Fred Saba

Farhad (Fred) Saba, Ph. D.
Founder and Editor, Distance-Educator.com

The cost of going to college has steadily increased in the past three decades at a rate of 5% to 10% a year. This increase has been faster than the general rate of inflation, which has been pegged to 3% a year on average. At the same time the share of the states’ contributions to colleges and universities have decreased to the point that now it averages 20% of the total cost of operating a college or a university.

From academic year 2009-10 to 2011-12, tuition in public four-year institutions increased 9 percent (to about $7,200) for in-state students and a 6 percent (to approximately $16,500) for out-of-state students. This is while for-profit institutions, reportedly, refrained from increasing their tuition during this time. Knapp, Kelly-Reid, and Ginder, (2012). The College Board’s report (2011) on higher education pricing indicated that in the academic year 2011-2012

“20% of full-time students at public four-year colleges and universities attend institutions that increased their published prices by 12% or more, and 10% attend institutions that increased their prices by less than 3%.” (p. 3). According to the same report, “California, which enrolls about 10% of the nation’s full-time public four-year college students, has the highest percentage increase in published in-state tuition and fees (21%) for that sector in 2011-12. Arizona and Washington increased published in-state tuition and fees at public four-year institutions by 17% and 16%, respectively. In contrast, increases in Connecticut and South Carolina are about 2.5%.” (p. 3)

If these trends continue, higher education will not be affordable by the majority of college age Americans. As it is, according to The Project on Student Debt (n. a) “Two-thirds of college seniors who graduated in 2011 had student loan debt, with an average of $26,600 per borrower. Meanwhile, unemployment for young college graduates remained high at 8.8 percent in 2011.” (p. 1)


Knapp, L.G., Kelly-Reid, J.E., and Ginder, S.A. (2012). Postsecondary Institutions and Price of Attendance in 2011-12, Degrees and Other Awards Conferred: 2010-11, and 12-Month Enrollment: 2010-11 (NCES 2012-289). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/.