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Average Cost of College Has Jumped an Incredible 3,009% in 50 Years

Andrew DePietro
Group of Students with Backpacks Walking to School.
Group of Students with Backpacks Walking to School.
  • College entrance scams have rocked education and the entertainment world recently.

  • But the admissions scandal pales in comparison to the soaring cost of college in 2019.

  • Both in current dollars at the time and adjusted for inflation, the cost of college has skyrocketed, along with student debt.

Colleges have gotten caught up in the news lately, and not for anything good. Last week, the Department of Justice charged dozens of people in a college entrance scam. What’s been dubbed Operation Varsity Blues involves coaches, exam administrators, students and their parents in an approximately $25 million scandal. The kicker: The parents are well-known celebrities and CEOs, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.

Related: The Cost of College Tuition Now Includes Fraud Charges for These Celebrity Parents

But there are other less sensational ways colleges and universities in the U.S. are proving costly. Perhaps the simplest way to observe it is in the current cost to go to college compared with the past. Both in terms of current dollars at the time and adjusted for inflation, the cost of college in the U.S. has skyrocketed in the last 50 years. Find out how much college used to cost and how much it costs today.

From Elementary to College: Average Cost of Education in Every State

Today’s Average College Tuition Is 31x More Than It Was in 1969

From 1969 to 2019, the average annual cost of a four-year public school has soared 3,009 percent. The average annual cost of a four-year private school has jumped 2,310 percent. Today, the average American needs to earn about $22,000 more than the current median income to afford college.

See: The Average American Needs $22,000 More to Afford College in Their State

Back in 1968-1969, the cost of a four-year public school was $329, according to National Center for Education Statistics data and based on averaging tuition and fees at four-year universities and other four-year colleges. Nowadays, according to The College Board, a public four-year school costs $10,230 in tuition and fees.

Private schools also saw a large surge in tuition prices, but not as much as public schools. In 1968-1969, the cost of a four-year private school was $1,487, growing to $35,830 by 2018-2019.

When you adjust these dollar figures for inflation, the change is smaller, but still unsettling. For instance, $329 for a public four-year school in 1969 adjusted for inflation is $2,323. That works out to an increase of 340 percent from 1969 to 2019 with inflation included, or nearly three and a half times the cost in the past.

For private schools, the inflation-adjusted price of tuition and fees was $10,499. With a current cost of tuition and fees at $35,830, that works out to an increase of 241 percent.

Consider: These Are the Best Colleges You Can Attend for Under $20K a Year

Take a look at the average cost of four-year public and private colleges since 1969:

Average Cost of Four-Year College

Academic Year

Four-Year, Public

Four-Year, Private

1968-1969

$329

$1,487

1969-1970

$367

$1,639

1970-1971

$405

$1,792

1971-1972

$430

$1,830

1972-1973

$500

$1,950

1973-1974

$510

$2,050

1974-1975

$510

$2,130

1975-1976

$540

$2,290

1976-1977

$620

$2,530

1977-1978

$660

$2,700

1978-1979

$690

$2,960

1979-1980

$740

$3,230

1980-1981

$800

$3,620

1981-1982

$910

$4,110

1982-1983

$1,030

$4,640

1983-1984

$1,150

$5,090

1984-1985

$1,230

$5,560

1985-1986

$1,320

$6,120

1986-1987

$1,410

$6,660

1987-1988

$1,490

$7,050

1988-1989

$1,580

$8,000

1989-1990

$1,700

$8,660

1990-1991

$1,910

$9,340

1991-1992

$2,110

$9,810

1992-1993

$2,330

$10,450

1993-1994

$2,540

$11,010

1994-1995

$2,710

$11,720

1995-1996

$2,810

$12,220

1996-1997

$2,980

$12,990

1997-1998

$3,110

$13,790

1998-1999

$3,250

$14,710

1999-2000

$3,360

$15,520

2000-2001

$3,510

$16,070

2001-2002

$3,770

$17,380

2002-2003

$4,100

$18,060

2003-2004

$4,650

$18,950

2004-2005

$5,130

$20,050

2005-2006

$5,490

$20,980

2006-2007

$5,800

$22,310

2007-2008

$6,190

$23,420

2008-2009

$6,600

$24,820

2009-2010

$7,070

$25,740

2010-2011

$7,630

$26,770

2011-2012

$8,280

$27,880

2012-2013

$8,650

$28,990

2013-2014

$8,890

$30,130

2014-2015

$9,150

$31,280

2015-2016

$9,430

$32,340

2016-2017

$9,670

$33,500

2017-2018

$9,980

$34,700

2018-2019

$10,230

$35,830

Source: National Center for Education Statistics and The College Board

The Effect of Climbing College Costs: New Report Shows Millennial Student Loan Debt Has Grown to More Than $1 Trillion

Rising Cost of College Tuition Has Resulted in More than $1 Trillion in Millennial Student Loan Debt

The effects of this rise in college tuition cost is the proliferation of student loans — and far worse, student loan debt. In fact, student loan debt, according to the New York Federal Reserve, has reached a record new high of $1.46 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2018, up from $1.44 trillion. Student loan debt has more than doubled in a decade.

Find out the average student loan debt in every state.

More on Education

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Methodology: GOBankingRates determined the cost of college in 1968-1969 versus 2018-2019 using data sourced from the National Center for Education Statistics and The College Board. The cost increase was calculated in terms of current dollars at the time as well as inflation-adjusted dollars using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index calculator. To calculate average college costs in 1968-1969, figures from the NCES for in-state tuition and fees at public four-year institutions, including (1) universities and (2) other four-year institutions, were averaged to attain overall figures for in-state costs at four-year public colleges. The same was done to calculate the average tuition and fees for private institutions as well. Some figures are rounded to the nearest whole number.

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Average Cost of College Has Jumped an Incredible 3,009% in 50 Years