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New NCES Report Details Trends in Tuition and Fees and Degrees Conferred

June 12, 2013

Tuition and fee prices rose by 7 percent at public four-year and two-year colleges between academic year 2010-11 and 2012-13, according to a new report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The report, Postsecondary Institutions and Price of Attendance in 2012-13; Degrees and Other Awards Conferred: 2011-12; and 12-Month Enrollment: 2011-12: First Look is based on preliminary data released through two annual surveys conducted under the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS): the Institutional Characteristics survey for academic year 2012-13 and the Completions survey for 2011-12. The report details preliminary IPEDS data received from roughly 7,400 nonprofit and for-profit higher education institutions that participate in the federal student financial aid programs.

Cost of Attendance

The IPEDS Institutional Characteristics (IC) survey provides costs of attendance information—including tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and other education-related expenses—for full-time, first-time undergraduates at various types of colleges and universities. The IC survey is based on the charges provided by institutions, but it does not include any financial aid information. Thus, the trends measured do not necessarily indicate the amounts students actually paid to attend their higher education institutions.

In 2012-13, first-time full-time undergraduates attending four-year public colleges and universities had average tuition and fee charges of $7,526, a 6.7 percent increase (in inflation-adjusted value) from 2010-11. Tuition and fee prices at two-year public (community) colleges rose 7.4 percent (from $2,821 to $3,030), while prices charged by two-year private for-profit (proprietary) schools actually declined in inflation-adjusted value, from $14,353 to $14,331. While tuition prices overall increased, average amounts paid for books and educational supplies declined slightly. At four-year public institutions, for example, book and supply expenses decreased 1.5 percent, compared with declines of 1.8 percent at four-year private non-profit colleges and universities and 1 percent at community colleges. Book costs fell approximately 8 percent at two-year proprietary schools. Room and board charges showed modest increases, rising 2.6 percent at four-year public colleges and universities (for students living in dormitories or other on-campus housing) and 2 percent at four-year private non-profit institutions.

Degrees Awarded

Rising tuition and fee expenses do not appear to have adversely affected the number of students who achieved postsecondary degrees and certificates. According to data from the NCES report and from the Digest of Education Statistics, during the 2010-11 to 2011-12 timespan (the most recent year of available IPEDS data), total degrees earned at all levels (undergraduate and graduate/professional) increased 4 percent. Bachelor's degrees accounted for 59 percent of the awards to students in 2011-12. The number of these awards rose to 1.79 million, compared with 1.72 million the year prior. Master's degrees, roughly 25 percent of total degrees conferred, increased from approximately 730,000 to 754,000 in 2011-12, and doctorates rose from 164,000 to 170,000. In 2011-12, women accounted for approximately 58 percent of all degrees conferred by four-year colleges and universities (public, private non-profit, and private for-profit combined), while racial/ethnic minorities accounted for 40 percent.

Copies of the report are available for no charge from the NCES Web site.


Ken Redd
Director, Research and Policy Analysis