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Key Points

  • The average published tuition and fee price at public two-year colleges was 49% of the average price at public four-year institutions in 1989-90 and 1999-00; it was 36% of the public four-year price in 2009-10 and 2019-20.

  • The average published tuition and fee price at private nonprofit four-year institutions was 5.1 times the average price at public four-year institutions in 1989-90 and 3.5 times that price in 2019-20.

Table 2: Average Tuition and Fees and Room and Board (Enrollment-Weighted) in Current Dollars and in 2019 Dollars, 1971-72 to 2019-20

NOTES: Average tuition and fee prices reflect in-district charges for public two-year institutions and in-state charges for public four-year institutions.

SOURCES: College Board, Annual Survey of Colleges; NCES, IPEDS Fall Enrollment data.

Also Important

  • The increases in the net prices that students actually pay, after taking grant aid and tax benefits into consideration, have been smaller over the long term than increases in published prices. See Figures 8, 9, and 10 for details on estimated average net prices over time.
  • The price increases reported in Table 2 are adjusted for inflation and smaller than those in Table 1.
  • The largest inflation-adjusted annual increases in tuition and fees between 1989-90 and 2019-20 were: public four-year—11.1% (2003-04) and 9.4% (2009-10); private nonprofit four-year—5.3% (2001-02) and 5.9% (2009-10); public two-year—22.9% (1991-92) and 11.8% (2003-04). The published price increase was smaller than the rise in the Consumer Price Index in all three sectors in 2018-19 and in one additional year in the private nonprofit four-year sector and seven additional years in the public two-year sector.