Make us your home page
A Times Editorial

The high cost of higher education

*In 2009 dollars; prior years' figures adjusted for inflation.

A college education is not nearly as affordable as it used to be.

As President Barack Obama lobbies Congress to prevent interest rates on new subsidized federal student loans from doubling July 1, he stresses the importance of keeping college affordable. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney also supports keeping loan rates low. The question in Congress is how to pay for it.

The reality is the days of being able to work your way through a four-year public university without borrowing or significant family assistance are largely over. Attending college today consumes far more of a family's income than just 40 years ago, when the post-Sputnik era led to unprecedented government investment in higher education and expansion of federal grants and loans.

The investment paid off, individually and as a country. Many more high school graduates pursue postsecondary education. But attending a four-year public university is not nearly the bargain it was for earlier generations.

Here's a look at how the economics of going to college have changed:

Average tuition, fees, room and board for public, four-year universities*

1969: $7,961

1989: $9,211

2009: $16,712

Portion of median family income it takes to cover average tuition, fees, room and board for public, four-year universities.

1969: 14.4%

1989: 15.6%

2009: 27.3%

Share of 18- to 24-year-old high school graduates who enrolled in degree-granting institutions.

1969: 35% 1989: 38.1% 2009: 48.8%

In 2008-09, nearly half of all full-time students at public, four-year institutions took out student loans. The average annual amount?


Sources: National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Census Bureau's Consumer Income Reports

The high cost of higher education 06/01/12 [Last modified: Friday, June 1, 2012 5:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours