Recent Data Shows That College Could Cost as Much as $334,000 in 4 Years
Posted By Paul Southerland on March 9, 2015 at 1:30 pm
It’s no secret that college is expensive – and prices are only going up. But you might be surprised at just how much. Forbes recently estimated that in four years’ time, a degree at an elite four-year institution could cost as much as $334,000.
Could costs really reach that high in just four years? According to Forbes, yes. Their calculations are based on average tuition at elite private institutions today – $59,000 – and assume a 4.5% annual increase in the total cost of attendance. When you consider that many students at elite colleges already pay well over $200,000 for a four-year degree, it doesn’t seem that improbable.
Forbes calculated projections for yearly tuition costs at four-year public, four-year private, and four-year elite institutions through the 2030-2031 academic year. They assume a 4.5% annual increase for private schools, and a 6.5% increase for public schools.
Why are college costs rising so fast?
Rising education costs are due to much more than just inflation. According to NPR, the “perfect storm” responsible for skyrocketing college costs began to build around 1970, when the country was dealing with “double-digit inflation, an oil embargo and a sputtering economy.” Public investment in higher education fell, forcing colleges to up their prices.
Since then, experts have pointed to ballooning institutional spending as another factor of rising costs. Colleges are spending more and more money on professor, staff and administrator salaries, as well as on entertainment and amenities – not to mention athletics.
According to Sandy Baum of the Urban Institute, many colleges do their best to keep costs down. Others, however, benefit from the perception that higher costs mean higher quality.
What does it mean?
There’s no doubt that the price of college will continue to rise. The only question is by how much. But regardless of the dollar amount, ever-increasing costs will certainly have an impact on how we think about higher education in the coming years.
Will students begin to eschew elite, private institutions in favor of more affordable public schools or community colleges? Possibly – the average American family certainly won’t be able to afford a college degree that costs upward of $300,000. An already-increasing trend is students attending community college for two years and then transferring to a four-year university to save money.
Will families increasingly turn toward grants, financial aid and scholarships to help them pay for college? Almost certainly. In 2013, 71% of students received some kind of financial aid, the highest rate since World War II. And Americans currently owe an estimated $1.2 trillion in student debt, an astronomical number that is sure to grow as costs continue to rise.