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The Progression of College Tuition Over The Years

I have decided to take today and the weekend off, so instead of just going silent, I wanted to provide you with a cool, yet disturbing infographic that was passed over to me.  There is a lot of talk about the craziness with college tuition rates and how they just keep increasing year after year.  I believe that my state is averaging around 7% increase each year.  That is much higher than inflation and I just don’t see the justification.  What is the need for the increases?  Does anyone have an answer to this question?

My friends over at NonProfitCollegesOnline.com created a great infographic about the progression of college tuition over the years.  They started back with the first chartered university, Harvard.  They moved all the way until the present and the statistics are eye opening.  It also shows that college has always been quite expensive, once you adjust for inflation.  Does this mean that it was only created to educate the upper class?  I will let you decide.

tuition rate increases


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About the Author Grayson Bell

I'm a business owner, blogger, father, and husband. I used credit cards too much and found myself in over $75,000 in debt ($50,000 in just credit cards). I paid it off, started this blog, and my financial life has changed. I now talk about fighting debt and growing wealth here. I run a WordPress maintenance and support company, along with another blog, Eyes on the Dollar, which is another great personal finance blog.

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32 comments
Kostas says August 16

Well, that just increases the point that many are now trying to make – it may be worth trying to study somewhere else if you are not that good off financially.

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DC @ Young Adult Money says August 16

Yeah the college debt load just keeps getting bigger and bigger, and I don’t see it stopping anytime soon. Hope you have a great weekend!

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John S @ Frugal Rules says August 16

Those are some crazy numbers! I think it’s a bit sad that that many older people are still carrying loans. I’d hate to be carrying loans into my 50’s & 60’s. Have a nice weekend Grayson!

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    Grayson says August 19

    Yeah, there is nothing good when the older generation are still holding student debt.

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Holly@ClubThrifty says August 16

That is crazy scary! I am so worried about the costs of college when my oldest gets there in about 14 years!

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    Grayson says August 19

    I am worried about that as well and I have 17 years to go.

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Michelle says August 16

College when W and I have children is going to be insane. I don’t even want to imagine!

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Matt Becker says August 16

I can’t imagine that the cost can just keep increasing. At some point the alternatives will become too attractive and traditional universities will be forced to adapt. I think there’s value to a traditional college experience beyond the education, but at some point people will start deciding that the cost isn’t worth it.

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    Grayson says August 19

    Yeah, people will have to make a choice. There is already a good number of options for people, but the costs continue to rise across the board because they know they can do it.

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SuburbanFinance says August 16

Crazy stats! As somebody who went to college and had to work throughout it to pay for it, I know how expensive it is.

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    Grayson says August 19

    It is expensive and there are only a handful of degrees that will warrant the cost.

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Jake @ Common Cents Wealth says August 16

Wow, this is really interesting. I especially like the ROI by jobs. That’s pretty neat to look at because it helps you realize what’s worth getting a degree for and what’s not. Also, I’m pretty amazed that 12% of people are 90+ days late and that 41% of people in general are delinquent at some point. Those are not very good numbers at all.

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    Grayson says August 19

    I enjoyed the ROI as well. That should be broken out for you when you start looking into careers, so you can see what might be worth while.

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Tara @ Streets Ahead Living says August 16

Something is going to happen soon. College application rates decreased last year for the first time in years so it’s going to change eventually. A lot of smaller, less prestigious colleges are going to start hurting really badly soon.

The US government needs to tie financial aid and student loan offers to the rate of tuition/fee increases at colleges. If a school is raising tuition and fees higher than the inflation rate, they should limit what aid they give. Schools only continuously raise tuition because they know there’s “free”money out there for their consumers to use. The current amount of loan debt is completely unsustainable and sh*t will hit the fan if changes aren’t made. If that cash cow of “free” money does dry up for colleges, in my opinion, some of those schools do need to fail. The plethora of law schools that exist now is a perfect example of GREED getting out of hand in this “non-profit” realm of education.

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    Grayson says August 19

    Great comment Tara and I completely agree with you. Something will have to drop soon. Once people can’t afford to go to these schools, then the institutions will have to change their pricing model.

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Shannon @ The Heavy Purse says August 16

Great, but scary infographic. And people often forget when they look at tuition costs that it’s JUST tuition. That amount doesn’t include room, meals, etc. From what I’ve seen with my clients, their yearly in-state college cost (tuition, books, room, meals) is around $15,000. Sorry to scare people even further but knowledge is power. Enjoy your weekend, Grayson!

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    Grayson says August 19

    You are absolutely correct Shannon. People don’t tend to look at the whole picture of costs.

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Deacon @ Well Kept Wallet says August 16

It is unbelievable how much college tuition has risen in just the past 10 years alone. I remember when I started college it was about $1,000 per semester to go to ASU and now it is around $5,000! I can only imagine what will be 20 years from now…

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    Grayson says August 19

    When you said ASU, it confused me. I assume you mean Arizona State because I went to ASU, but that was Appalachian State. The cost of my college was much less than it is now and I don’t see the quality of education getting any better.

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Andrew@LivingRichCheaply says August 16

I think Mark Cuban wrote an article recently saying that colleges will be obsolete and that technology will replace them. I don’t know about that but I think the education bubble will burst and tuition will have to go down otherwise students will be forced to seek alternatives. There is just no way that tuition can continue on this path.

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    Grayson says August 19

    The biggest problem is that a formalized education is what employers look for, but that is really not necessary. It should be about the experience. Just because you have a degree doesn’t mean you are competent or willing to expand your knowledge base.

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Laurie says August 16

Wow, Grayson. Yeah, the rate increase just is not justifiable, is it? More wasteful spending, I’m sure, just as with the regular school system. I’m also surprised by the low ROI for the veterinarians. I just don’t see the point in pushing our kids to go to college unless they have a specific career in mind that they are totally committed to that requires a degree. I’d rather teach them good money management skills and income creating/wealth creating skills first.

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    Grayson says August 19

    I am with you there Laurie. There are many technical positions that don’t need a degree in order to make good money. Something will have to change.

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Derek | MoneyAhoy.com - Money Saving, Making Money, and Investment Ideas says August 16

I really hope the bubble bursts before my kids are college age. It seems any more if you’re not going into math/science then college is a complete waste of money for the price.

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Kasey @ Debt Perception says August 16

Profit. Greed. Tuition prices will continue to rise until bankruptcy protections are restored. It’s a risk-free world out there for lenders right now and the gov’t is winning too. Put the risk back in lending and lenders will be less willing to give loans to unemployed students. Students won’t be able to afford college, and with a steady decline, colleges will be forced to lower their tuition rates. The whole system is messed up and it will take a long time to fix. In a perfect world, education should be free (we should stop outsourcing and bring jobs back home) and student loans done away with.

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    Grayson says August 19

    You are right Kasey. They know that they will get their money this way or that. They don’t have anything to worry about. There are a lot of things that need to change, but people (government) is going to have push those changes.

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Michael | The Student Loan Sherpa says August 18

I love this infographic! I hope we get tuition under control soon.

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