College Tuition Inflation Rate

Last Updated: October 18, 2021 by Melanie Hanson

Report Highlights. The average cost of annual tuition at a 4 year college is nearly 4 times the amount it was in 1963.

  • On average, college tuition increases annually at 8%.
  • In 1963, the average annual cost of tuition from a 4-year college was $5,355.
  • Today, the average annual cost of tuition from a 4-year college is $21,365.
  • From $5,355 to $21,365, average annual tuition has risen by 299%.

Related reports include Average Cost of College | Average Cost of a College Credit Hour | Average Cost of College by State | Average Cost of Private School | Average Cost of Community College

Historicaltuitioncostsin2021dollars on EducationData

Historical Rise in Annual College Tuition

Since 1963, average annual tuition among 2-year and 4-year colleges has more than tripled to reach today’s prices. The average annual tuition for just 4 year colleges has nearly quadrupled in price. Meanwhile, average annual tuition for 2 year colleges has more than tripled since 1963.

  • In 1963, the average annual cost of tuition at a 4 year college was $5,355.
  • Adjusted for inflation at 796%, that number would amount to $48,004.25 today.
  • For the 2020-2021 school year the average annual cost of tuition was $21,365.
  • From $5,355 to $21,365, average annual tuition has risen by $16,010 or 299%.
  • On average, tuition at public 4 year universities has increased by $129 annually.
  • On average, college tuition increases annually at 8%.

Historical Rise in Annual College Tuition – by State

Rising tuition rates on the national scale has had an uneven effect on the state level. While every state has seen an increase in their average annual tuition rate since 2000, some states have been more severely affected than others.

  • Illinois saw the largest rise in average annual tuition from 2000 to 2022 – tuition rose by $9,116 in that time period.
  • From $5,143 to $14,259 average annual tuition in Illinois has risen by 177%
  • Average annual tuition in Illinois from 2000 was $5,143 – adjusted for inflation at 59.3% – that would amount to $8,1923 today.
  • Wyoming saw the smallest rise in average annual tuition from 2000 to 2022 – tuition rose by $1,068 in that time period.
  • From $3,528 to $4,596 average annual in Wyoming has risen by 30.3%
  • Average annual tuition in Wyoming from 2000 was $3,528 – adjusted for inflation at 59.3% – that would amount to $5,620 today.
Average Annual Tuition Rates by State
State Average Tuition from 2000-2001 Average Tuition from 2021-2022
Alabama $4,037 $10,138
Alaska $4,026 $8,467
Arizona $3,201 $10,666
Arkansas $3,891 $8,391
California $3,289 $8,118
Colorado $3,899 $9,394
Connecticut $6,051 $12,959
Delaware $5,805 $10,607
District of Columbia $2,836 $5,845
Florida $2,344 $4,443
Georgia $3,041 $7,319
Hawaii $2,982 $9,952
Idaho $3,546 $7,586
Illinois $5,143 $14,259
Iowa $4,323 $9,966
Kansas $3,474 $8,772
Kentucky $3,806 $10,674
Louisiana $3,773 $9,358
Maine $5,545 $9,930
Maryland $6,371 $9,521
Massachusetts $4,889 $13,286
Michigan $5,660 $12,888
Minnesota $5,290 $11,381
Mississippi $3,927 $8,340
Missouri $4,928 $8,554
Montana $4,057 $6,972
Nebraska $3,975 $8,467
Nevada $2,399 $5,845
New Hampshire $7,441 $16,329
New Jersey $7,539 $13,963
New Mexico $2,862 $6,902
New York $5,312 $8,184
North Carolina $2,924 $7,174
North Dakota $3,768 $8,091
Ohio $5,033 $10,068
Oklahoma $2,818 $7,866
Oregon $5,508 $12,286
Pennsylvania $8,238 $14,812
Rhode Island $5,840 $12,576
South Carolina $5,885 $13,013
South Dakota $4,947 $8,772
Tennessee $3,932 $9,789
Texas $3,309 $8,678
Utah $2,740 $6,731
Vermont $8,006 $16,604
Virginia $5,525 $13,413
Washington $3,282 $7,036
West Virginia $3,289 $8,016
Wisconsin $4,483 $8,697
Wyoming $3,528 $4,596

College Examples of Tuition Inflation

Tuition rates among specific colleges do not match the rates of their peers in the same state. Since costs differ among colleges throughout the years, each college also has a different rate of tuition inflation.

  • Florida Atlantic University’s annual tuition rate increased by 155% or $3,703 dollars from 2000 to 2021.
  • Syracuse University’s annual tuition rate rose by 167% or $34,944 dollars from 2000 to 2021.
  • The University of Kansas’ annual tuition increased by 301% or $7,574 during the same time period.
  • The University of California, Berkeley’s annual tuition increased by 255% or $10,325 during the same time period.
  • The University of Wyoming’s annual tuition rose by 127% or $2,755.
  • The University of Illinois’s annual tuition rose by 304% or $14,613.
  • Texas A&M University’s annual tuition rose by 269% or $9,606.
College Tuition Rates
College Cost of Tuition from 2000-2001 Cost of Tuition from 2021-2022
Florida Atlantic University $2,396 $6,099
Syracuse University $20,976 $55,920
University of Kansas $2,518 $10,092
University of California, Berkeley $4,046 $14,371
University of Wyoming $2,166 $4,921
University of Illinois $4,800 $19,413
Texas A & M University $3,572 $13,178

Why Annual College Tuition Maybe Rising

While no single cause is attributed as the primary reason college tuition keeps increasing, several possible explanations have been offered on the subject. Each of these ideas explain the rise in tuition as a result of an imbalance in market driven economics.

  • The Bennett Hypothesis: The more grant aid a college student and their family gets, the more they are willing to pay for tuition, subsequently, this allows colleges to set higher rates of tuition.
  • The Golden Ticket Fallacy: Believing any college degree would result in improved future earnings results in college students doing less in depth research on the cost of college, including tuition.
  • The Invisible Menu: The published prices of tuition do not include grant aid or discounts the student may receive – with the true cost of tuition obscured, colleges have trouble lowering prices to match their competition.
  • Oligopolistic Competition: For the majority of college students finding a college constrains them to their local geographic area – without competition, the small number of local colleges in the area can keep tuition rates high.
  • Excessive Regulation: Regulation, accreditation, and federal subsidies make it difficult for innovative providers of higher education to emerge and offer the kind of competition the market needs to lower tuition prices.

Sources

  1. Manhattan Institute Report: A New Approach for Curbing College Tuition Inflation
  2. CollegeBoard: Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid 2020
  3. ProPublica: Median Income Is Down, But Public College Tuition is Way Up
  4. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES): Fast Facts – Tuition costs of colleges and universities
  5. Finaid: Tuition Inflation