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Average College Tuition Prices Rise Slightly, While Grant Aid Increases and Borrowing Declines

October 27, 2017

The College Board has released its Trends in Higher Education Pricing 2017 and Trends in Student Aid 2017 reports, detailing recent data on the costs of college and the aid available to help students pay.

According to Trends in Higher Education Pricing 2017, the average published tuition and required fee prices for undergraduates attending public and private nonprofit institutions rose by less than 4 percent between 2016-17 and 2017-18.

Average full-time, full-year undergraduate tuition and fee increases ranged from a low of $100 (2.9 percent) for in-district students at public two-year (community) colleges to a high of $1,220 (3.6 percent) at four-year private nonprofit institutions.

Some undergraduates attended schools that were priced far below the average tuition and fee values. At four-year private nonprofit institutions, for instance, about 10 percent of full-time students attend institutions whose published tuition and fee prices were less than $12,000, while 13 percent attended schools whose published prices were $51,000 or more.

To help students pay these higher charges, grant aid has risen substantially over the past decade, according to Trends in Student Aid 2017, the College Board's companion study in its Trends series. In 2016-17, undergraduate and graduate/professional students received $125.4 billion in grant aid, which is 74 percent more in inflation-adjusted dollars than a decade ago. Undergraduate students alone in 2016-17 received an average of $8,440 in grants per full-time equivalent student (FTE) and received more than $14,000 in total financial aid on average (grants, loans, work-study, and education tax credits).

Colleges and universities provided much of the grant aid students received. In 2016-17, the federal government provided only 32 percent of all grant aid, while higher education institutions contributed 47 percent. The remainder was split between private and employer grants (13 percent) and state/local governments (8 percent). Federal grant aid as a share of the total has declined noticeably over the past few years; in 2010-11, federal grants accounted for 44 percent of the total.

While total grant aid has increased, the amount students are borrowing has continued to fall. From 2010-11 to 2016-17, the total amount of parent and student borrowing declined from just over $125 billion to $106.5 billion. In 2006-07, loans accounted for 49 percent of total aid to undergraduates; in 2016-17, loans made up 36 percent of the total. In contrast, the share of all undergraduate aid from grants grew from 44 percent to 55 percent in the same time span.

The two reports are available online


Lesley McBain
Assistant Director, Research and Policy Analysis