The Real Cost of College Is Flattening as Schools Give More Scholarships

Douglas Belkin:

“The trends in college financing have changed in recent years,” Sandy Baum, co-author of the 2018 Trends in Higher Education report, said in a statement. Tuition rose rapidly during the four academic years between fall 2007 and spring 2011, “particularly at public colleges and universities,” Ms. Baum said. “Federal expenditures on student aid increased dramatically, helping a growing student population to finance their education. At the same time, students borrowed more and more.”

But since 2010-11, she said, “all of these trends have reversed.”

The average net cost of a year at a four-year public college or university, including tuition, fees, room and board, fell to $14,880 in 2018–19, down slightly from $14,910 in 2017–18 and just $90 more than in 2016-17. By comparison, between 2008-09 and 2015-16 the net cost increased 25%, or $2,840, in inflation adjusted dollars, according to the report.

The net price for four-year private schools was $27,290, up 0.5% from $27,160 last year. Those figures are based on 2018-19 tuition rates but prior-year financial-aid figures, and will be revised once financial-aid and tax data are released for the current school year.

Net costs are flattening or falling thanks to a rise in grants—student aid that doesn’t need to be repaid. Grants and tax benefits at private schools climbed to $21,220 on average this year, up from $13,860 in 2008 (adjusted to 2018 dollars). At public institutions they rose to $6,490 this year from $4,970 in 2008.