If you’re a parent planning for your child’s future education, the cost of a college education can be overwhelming. Under current tariffs and assuming an annual cost increase of 5%, the total cost of participation four years in a public four year school could cost close to $200,000 over the next 10 years.
But why is college so expensive? Many factors are responsible for rising prices, from declining state funding to increased demand for high-end equipment on campuses. However, there are ways to reduce education costs and make college more affordable.
The cost of a college education has steadily increased little by little each year
The cost of college has grown steadily over the past two decades. In the 2009-2010 school year, the average cost of tuition, fees, and room and board was $18,256 at a four-year public school. For the 2022-2023 academic year, this cost was $23,250, an increase of 27%.
Private schools have seen similar price increases. The average cost in 2009-2010 for a private non-profit university was $42,547. For the 2022-2023 school year, the cost has increased by 25% to $53,340, roughly the same growth rate seen in public schools.
These increases are the result of small, incremental increases each year to account for inflation, new student amenities, and updated facilities to provide the best possible experience for every student. We have looked at all the reasons why college has become expensive over the years.
Reasons Why College Is Expensive
Why are colleges so expensive these days? There is no single factor driving the price hike. Instead, the price increases are due to several contributing factors.
1. Inflation rates are high
Over the past two years, inflation has been a major concern. Inflation was above 9% in June 2022 and is now around 5%, still above the government’s target rate.
High inflation makes everything more expensive. Schools have substantial overhead costs, including building maintenance, supplies, landscaping, and food. Their regular expenses are higher due to inflation, and they pass some of these costs on to students through higher tuition and fees.
2. Colleges spend more on advertising and recruiting
After decades of growth, the number of students going to college has slowed in recent years. Actually, Inside Higher Education reported that college enrollment has dropped for five straight semesters.
Falling enrollment means schools have to compete more than ever to attract new students. As a result, they spend large sums on advertising and recruiting efforts.
Collectively, colleges spend millions every year on everything from TV commercials to social media ads and billboards. Schools need to raise their tuition and fees to afford these advertising efforts.
3. Campus amenities are improving
To attract new students, many schools have built state-of-the-art student recreation centers and other amenities. Consider these examples:
- University of Missouri: Mizzou Tiger Cave features a zero-entry pool, hot tub, sauna, steam room, and lazy river.
- High Point University: This campus has a variety of high-end equipmentincluding an indoor track, multiple pools (including indoors), hot tubs, skating rinks, and food centers with offerings from Subway, Chick-fil-A, and Starbucks.
- The University of Wisconsin-Madison: In this school, students can meet at Sett Leisure Center. It offers perks like a bowling alley, rock climbing wall, and pool tables.
These academic advantages are not that unusual; more colleges and universities are developing expensive student centers and dormitories to attract new applicants and make the student experience on campus comfortable and enjoyable. Therefore, the cost of participation is much higher.
4. Schools get less money from states
In general, states are spending less on public colleges and universities than they have in the past. THE National Education Association found that funding has decreased by approximately $1,500 per student. To make up for lost funding, schools have increased their tuition and fees, passing the cost on to families.
5. Federal Financial Aid Has Decreased
Federal financial aid is one of the most common forms of financial aid for students. Federal aid can come in the form of federal student loans, Pell grants, and veterans benefits.
However, the federal government financial aid has decreased considerably. According to The College Board, total federal grants decreased by 32% in inflation-adjusted dollars between the 2011-2012 and 2021-2022 academic years. Pell Grants, a federal grant for low-income students, fell 36%, down $14.6 billion.
With less federal aid available, colleges must fill some of the gaps by offering their own grants, scholarships, and even institutional student loans — which add to school expenses.
7 tips to make college affordable
How can I make college cheaper? This is a common question. With these seven tips, you can lower your tuition fees:
1. Attend a community college
Community colleges cost significantly less than four-year schools. By attending a community college for the first two years of study and transferring to a four-year school to complete your degree, you can significantly reduce the cost of a bachelor’s degree.
2. Choose a public school in the state – or find a reciprocal program
A public school in the state will cost half of what a private school costs. Attending college in the state where you live is one way to reduce your expenses.
But if you want to attend a school out of state, consider a public university that is part of a reciprocal network. Many states participate in networks that allow students to attend school in another state but pay in-state tuition.
You can find out if your state participates in a tuition exchange or reciprocity program by visiting the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators website.
3. Submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
Not only the FAFSA help you qualify for federal financial aid, but schools, states, and nonprofits often use it to determine your eligibility for other aid, including grants and work-study programs.
Submit FAFSA by Federal, State, and School time limit get as much help as possible.
4. Scholarships and research grants
There are billions of dollars in grants and scholarships available. They are issued by non-profit organizations and private companies across the country, and you can apply for multiple scholarships and combine them to reduce your tuition fees.
5. Consider a part-time job or side hustle
If you can comfortably manage your college classes, getting a part-time job or a side hustle can earn you money to pay for some of your expenses, such as meals or textbooks.
6. Getting to School
While living in dorms can be appealing, college room and board can be expensive. The cost of your dorm and a college meal plan can add $10,000 to $15,000 per year to your tuition.
If your parents are okay with you living at home while you’re at school, you can save a lot of money by go to school. Even if you pay your parents rent, living at home can be much cheaper than living on campus.
7. Apply for Private Student Loans
If your financial aid program is not enough to cover the full cost of participation, you can use private student loans pay the remaining balance. As a student, you may not qualify for a private loan because you don’t have a full-time job or an established credit history. But you can improve your chances of getting a loan — and earning a competitive interest rate — by having a relative, relative, or friend co-sign the loan.
College expense planning
Now that you know why college is so expensive, you can start making a plan to pay for your education. Although college costs are higher than they used to be, you can make the expense more manageable by exploring your financial aid options, choosing a public school in the state, and applying for grants and scholarships.