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NCES Releases New Data on Postsecondary Tuition and Fees

October 2, 2012

Between 2009-10 and 2011-12, the average in-state tuition and fee price at four-year public colleges and universities rose by 9 percent, while private non-profit institutions raised tuition prices by 4.3 percent, according to a new report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The report, "Postsecondary Institutions and Price of Attendance in 2011-12, Degrees and Other Awards Conferred: 2010-11, and 12-Month Enrollment: 2010-11," is based on data from 7,398 public, private non-profit, and private for-profit institutions that provided tuition and fees and other information to the Institutional Characteristics (IC) component of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) survey for academic year 2011-12 (July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012). Tuition and fees and other prices for the 2011-12 period were compared with those from 2009-10. IPEDS annually collects publicly available institution-level data from postsecondary institutions in the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and other U.S. territories. The IC component is used to report tuition, fees, and other attendance prices. All price trend data are adjusted for inflation. Data include the list prices charged by institutions during the two-year period; that is, they do not include the effects of financial aid students may have received, and as such they are not the prices students and their families ultimately paid to attend these institutions.

According to the IPEDS data, there were 700 public four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. (the 50 states and the District of Columbia), 1,701 public two-year colleges (community colleges), and 1,611 four-year private non-profit institutions. On average, public institutions charged $7,234 in tuition and fees to in-state full-time, full-year undergraduates. Tuition and fee list prices for in-state students increased by 9 percent from 2009-10 to 2011-12. Tuition and fees for non-resident students increased nearly 6 percent, from $15,586 to $16,457. Community colleges reported a 9.8 percent jump in average in-district tuition and fee prices, from $2,653 to $2,912. In contrast, tuition and fee prices at private non-profit four-year colleges and universities (which do not have an in-state/out-of-state tuition differential) grew 4.3 percent, from $22,371 to $23,343.

Economic Effects on Tuition and Fee Increases

Public institutions' tuition and fee charges grew at a higher rate in part due to recent state reductions in appropriations for higher education, which caused institutions to become more dependent on tuition and fee revenue to finance their operations. The 2008-09 economic recession caused many states to lose tax revenue, and as a result, as the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) recently reported, state and local support for general higher education operations for public two- and four-year schools fell to $6,290 per full-time equivalent (FTE) student in FY 2011 from $7,398 in 2003 -- a 15 percent decrease in inflation-adjusted value. At the same time, net tuition and fee revenue (total revenue minus institutionally funded financial aid to students) grew 35 percent, from $3,598 to $4,774. Tuition and fee revenue as a share of total support for public postsecondary institutions rose from 29 percent in FY01 to 43 percent in FY11.

Total Cost of Attendance

While tuition and fees rose sharply over the past year at public colleges and universities, price increases for books and supplies and room and board were much more moderate. For example, average costs for room and board at four-year public institutions grew 3.8 percent for full-time, full-year undergraduates living in dormitories and other on-campus housing during the 2009-10 to 2010-11 timespan. As a result, total cost of attendance (tuition, fees, books, supplies, room, board, and other expenses) increased 4.4 percent, to $20,056, for full-time, full-year undergraduates at public universities and colleges. Total attendance costs at four-year private non-profit institutions rose 3.6 percent, to $35,935.

While these costs are high, they did not reflect what students actually paid to attend their higher education institutions, since many full-time undergraduates receive grants and other financial assistance to pay their tuition and other expenses. An earlier NCES report found that, on average, grants from all sources lowered the price of attendance for students at four-year public colleges and universities by approximately 38 percent. At four-year private non-profit colleges and universities, grants lowered the price of attendance by 42 percent.

Copies of the full report are available on the NCES web site.


Ken Redd
Director, Research and Policy Analysis