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Key Points

  • Published tuition and fee prices moved at about the same rate in the public two-year and four-year sectors from 1988-89 through 1999-00, rising by about 50%. By 2009-10, however, the public four-year price had risen by another 63%, compared with just 21% at public two-year colleges. Since that time, the rate of price increase has been similar in the two sectors.

Figure 4B: Inflation-Adjusted Published Tuition and Fees Relative to 1988-89, 1988-89 to 2018-19 (1988-89 = 1.0)

Inflation-Adjusted Published Tuition and Fees Relative to 1988-89, 1988-89 to 2018-19 (1988-89 = 1.0)

NOTES: Figure 4B shows published tuition and fees by sector, adjusted for inflation, relative to 1988-89 published prices. For example, a value of 3.04 indicates that the tuition and fee price in the public four-year sector in 2018-19 is 3.04 times as high as it was in 1988-89, after adjusting for increases in the Consumer Price Index. 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

  • Median family income in the United States increased at an average rate of 0.9% per year between 1988 and 1998, 0.0% per year between 1998 and 2008, and 0.8% per year between 2008 and 2017 (after adjusting for inflation). Median family income was 18% higher in 2017 than in 1987. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2017 Income Data, Table F-7; calculations by the authors)