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The College Board has released its annual Trends in College Pricing and Trends in Student Aid reports. Collectively, they indicate that the rate at which published prices are increasing has slowed in recent years, undergraduates are borrowing less, and both undergraduate and graduate students are receiving more institutional grant aid.


Key takeaways include:

1. Published pricing increases have slowed.

Published charges between 2008-09 and 2018-19 grew at slower pace than pricing increases in the previous two decades:

Published in-state tuition and fees a public four-year colleges and universities increased at an average rate of 3.1 percent per year between 2008-09 and 2018-19, compared with average annual increases of 4.1 percent between 1988-89 and 1998-99 and 4.2 percent between 1998-99 and 2008-09.

At private, nonprofit four-year institutions, published prices increased by 2.3 percent on average per year between 2008-09 and 2018-19, compared with 2.9 percent (1988-89 to 1998-99) and 2.3 percent (1998-99 to 2008-09) in the previous two decades.

Published tuition and fees at public two-year colleges increased by 3 percent on average each year between 2008-09 and 2018-19, compared with average annual increases of 3.5 percent (1988-89 to 1998-99) and 1.3 percent (1998-99 to 2008-09) in the previous decades.

2. Average net prices remain significantly below sticker prices.

Listed prices do not reflect what most students and families actually pay for college. Many undergraduates receive grants and federal tax credits that lower their ultimate education-related expenditures.  In 2018-19, the average published tuition and fees and room and board (TFRB) at public two-year colleges was $12,320 and was $21,370 at public four-year institutions and $48,510 at private nonprofit four-year colleges and universities. In comparison, average net prices per undergraduate in 2018-19 were $8,270 at public two-year colleges, $14,880 at public four-year institutions, and $27,290 at private nonprofit four-year colleges and universities.

3. Undergraduates are borrowing less.

Annual educational borrowing (including federal and non-federal loans for undergraduate and graduate students) declined for the seventh consecutive year, from a total of $127.7 billion (in 2017 dollars) in 2010-11 to $105.5 billion in 2017-18.

Total federal loans (including subsidized, unsubsidized, and PLUS) to undergraduate students declined by 23 percent between 2012-13 and 2017-18 (from $71.7 billion to $56.5 billion). In 2017-18, the average federal loan amount per undergraduate was $4,510.

4. Students are receiving more aid.

The total amount of grant aid supporting postsecondary students increased by 64 percent (after adjusting for inflation) between 2007-08 and 2017-18. Federal grants as a share of all grant aid awarded to undergraduate and graduate students has fluctuated over time, from 44 percent in 2010-11 to accounting for 32 percent of grant aid awarded in 2017-18. Institutional grant aid is the only type of grant aid that grew rapidly between 2012-13 and 2017-18, with colleges and universities increasing their aid by 24 percent, from $48.4 billion (in 2017 dollars) in 2012-13 to $60 billion in 2017-18. 

Both reports, Trends in College Pricing 2018 and Trends in Student Aid 2018, are available online.


Lindsay Wayt

Assistant Director, Research and Policy Analysis


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