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Growth in Average Tuition and Fees Slows in 2013-14

October 30, 2013

The College Board's annual Trends in College Prices study examines full-time, full-year undergraduate tuition and fee "sticker" prices charged by higher education institutions, changes in these prices over time, and variations in prices by type of institution, state, and region. The report also looks at changes in the total price of attendance (tuition, fees, room, board, books, supplies, transportation to and from campus, and miscellaneous expenses) for full-time, full-year undergraduate study, and the average "net" price that undergraduates actually pay for postsecondary education. The net price equals the total price of attendance minus financial assistance received from any grants and federal tuition tax credits.

The average published tuition and fee charge for in‐state students at four‐year public colleges and universities grew from $8,646 in 2012­13 to $8,893 in 2013-14, according to the most recent Trends report. This 2.9 percent increase is the smallest in 30 years. In 2012-13, the average tuition and fee price rose 4.5 percent, and in 2011-12 it rose 8.5 percent.

The average listed tuition and fee price for out-of-state students at four-year public colleges rose 3.1 percent, from $21,533 in 2012-13 to $22,203 in 2013-14, while the average at private nonprofit four-year institutions rose 3.8 percent, from $28,989 to $30,094.

Variations in Tuition and Fee Prices

The rate of growth in tuition and fees varied widely. About 12 percent of full-time undergraduates at public four-year colleges and universities attend institutions that did not increase their published tuition and fees, while 12 percent attended schools that increased their tuition by 6 percent or more.

Additionally, undergraduates have tended to be enrolled at schools that charged below-average tuition and fees. Nearly half of all full-time undergraduates who attended public institutions in 2013-14 were enrolled at schools that charged less than $9,000 in tuition and fees. And about 45 percent of all full-time undergraduate who attended four-year private colleges and universities were enrolled on campuses that charged $30,000 or less in tuition and fees, while 19 percent attended institutions that charged $42,000 or more.

Net Prices

Tuition and fees are just one part of the expenses students often bear for attending higher education institutions. Room, board, and other costs push the average listed price of attendance to $40,917 for those enrolled at four-year private non-profit institutions and $18,391 for in-state residents at four-year public colleges and universities.

But most students do not pay all of these charges, because about two-thirds of full-time, full-year undergraduates receive federal, state, and/or private grants that reduce the actual price of college. In addition, many families also qualify for various federal tuition tax benefits may lower the out-of-pocket cost. In recent years, substantial increases in Federal Pell Grants and veterans education benefits [], combined with tuition tax benefits received under the American Opportunity Tax Credit, reduce the out-of-pocket expenses for many college attendees.

In 2013-14 in-state undergraduates at public four-year colleges and universities paid an average net price of $12,620, while those who attended four-year private non-profit institutions had an average net price of $23,290. These out-of-pocket costs were paid by students or their families through their savings, employment earnings, and/or student loans.

Between 2012-13 and 2013-14, the average net price in inflation-adjusted dollars rose by 1.8 percent for full-time undergraduates at public institutions and 3.1 percent at private non-profit institutions.

Like the tuition and fee charges, net prices vary considerably by state, region, and sector. For students who did not receive grant aid or tax benefits, the published total price of attendance was equal to the net price.


Ken Redd
Director, Research and Policy Analysis