Report: Historically Low Increases in Average Published Tuition Prices Continue
Undergraduate Student Borrowing Declines for the 10th Consecutive Year
NEW YORK — College Board’s 2021 Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid report released today shows another year of historically low increases in average published tuition and fees amid the covid-19 pandemic. In 2020-21, undergraduate borrowing declined for the 10th consecutive year and total grant aid saw a small decline while enrollment declined. Average net tuition and fees have declined in the last five years.
“This year's data underscore the significant impact covid-19 has had on higher education,” said Jessica Howell, College Board’s vice president for research. “In fall 2020, total undergraduate enrollment declined by 4%, or nearly 700,000, compared to fall 2019, with the vast majority of the decline occurring at community colleges."
In 2021-22, average tuition and fees increased by 1.6% for in-state students at public four-year institutions, 1.3% for in-district students at public two-year colleges, and 2.1% for students at private nonprofit four-year institutions, before adjusting for inflation. After adjusting for the 3.9% inflation between the first eight months of 2020 and 2021, average tuition and fees declined in all three sectors.
“Some institutions and states are holding tuition and fees flat this year,” said Jennifer Ma, senior policy research scientist at College Board and coauthor of the report. “In 15 states, the average public two-year in-district tuition and fees did not increase in 2021-22. In three states, the average public four-year in-state tuition and fees did not increase.”
Over the last decade, total grant aid from all sources increased by 8% after adjusting for inflation, from $128.4 billion (in 2020 dollars) in 2010-11 to $138.6 billion in 2020-21. Institutional grant aid increased by $25.6 billion (56%) while Pell grants declined by $16.4 billion (39%) during these ten years. Total annual borrowing (including federal and nonfederal loans) declined by 29%, from $135.1 billion (in 2020 dollars) in 2010-11 to $95.9 billion in 2020-21.
Since March 2020, the federal government has authorized $74.8 billion to higher education institutions and students through three rounds of Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). Analysis of the $14 billion HEERF I funding shows that, on average, public institutions received more funding per student than private nonprofit and for-profit institutions.
It is still early to understand the full impact of the economic relief on higher education and on student borrowing. “Our analysis indicates that institutions with higher shares of Pell Grant recipients received more funding per student than institutions with lower shares of Pell recipients,” said Matea Pender, policy research scientist at College Board and coauthor of the report.
Key College Pricing Findings
Published Prices — Sticker Prices Institutions Charge
- Average published tuition and fees for full-time in-state students at public four-year colleges and universities increased by 1.6% ($170) before adjusting for inflation, from $10,570 in 2020-21 to $10,740 in 2021-22. At the state level, average 2021-22 in-state tuition and fees in this sector range from $6,100 to $17,750. (Table CP-1, Figure CP-6)
- Average published in-district tuition and fees at public two-year colleges increased by 1.3% ($50) before adjusting for inflation, from $3,750 in 2020-21 to $3,800 in 2021-22. At the state level, average 2021-22 in-district tuition and fees in this sector range from $1,430 to $8,600. (Table CP-1, Figure CP-5)
- Average published tuition and fees at private nonprofit four-year institutions increased by 2.1% ($800) before adjusting for inflation, from $37,270 in 2020-21 to $38,070 in 2021-22. (Table CP-1)
- In 2021-22, average estimated budgets (tuition and fees; room and board; and allowances for books and supplies, transportation, and other personal expenses) for full-time undergraduate students range from $18,830 for public two-year in-district students and $27,330 for public four-year in-state students to $44,150 for public four-year out-of-state students and $55,800 for private nonprofit four-year students. (Figure CP-1)
Net Prices — What Students Pay After Grant Aid and Scholarships
- Average net prices are calculated as the differences between published prices and average grant aid received by first-time full-time students, including those who did not receive grant aid. In 2019-20, 75% of public two-year, 78% of public four-year, and 88% of private nonprofit four-year first-time full-time undergraduate students received federal, state, or institutional grant aid. (Pages 17, 18, and 19)
- In 2021-22, first-time full-time students at public two-year colleges need to cover an estimated average of $8,670 in food and housing after grant aid, in addition to another $5,700 in allowances for books and supplies, transportation, and other personal expenses. (Figure CP-8)
- Between 2006-07 and 2021-22, the average net tuition and fee price paid by first-time full-time in-state students enrolled in public four-year institutions is lowest in 2021-22 at an estimated $2,640, after peaking in 2012-13 at $3,720 (in 2021 dollars). (Figure CP-9)
- Between 2006-07 and 2021-22, the average net tuition and fee price paid by first-time full-time undergraduates enrolled in private nonprofit four-year institutions is lowest in 2021-22 at an estimated $14,990. (Figure CP-10)
State and Local Funding for Higher Education
- State and local funding for higher education tend to be cyclical. Historically, declines in state and local funding per student were followed by large percentage increases in tuition and fees in the public sector.
- State and local funding per full-time equivalent (FTE) student increased in 2019-20 (in inflation-adjusted dollars) for the eighth consecutive year, following four years of decline during and after the Great Recession. (Figure CP-11A)
- Between fall 2019 and fall 2020, total enrollment fell by 631,000 (3%). Total undergraduate enrollment fell by 698,000 and total graduate student enrollment increased by 67,000. Between 2019 and 2020, full-time equivalent undergraduate enrollment fell in all but nine states in the public four-year sector and in all but one state in the public two-year sector. (Figures CP-16, CP-17A, and CP-17B)
- Between fall 2019 and fall 2020, the share of college students enrolled in distance education courses increased dramatically. In fall 2020, 75% of undergraduate students and 71% of graduate students enrolled in distance education courses, compared with 36% of undergraduate and 42% of graduate students in fall 2019. (Figure CP-20)
Key Student Aid Findings
Total Aid and Total Aid per Student
- In 2020-21, undergraduate and graduate students received $234.9 billion in grants from all sources, Federal Work-Study (FWS), federal loans, and federal tax credits. In addition, students borrowed about $12 billion from nonfederal sources. (Table SA-1)
- In 2020-21, undergraduate students received an average of $14,800 per FTE student in financial aid: $10,050 in grants, $3,780 in federal loans, $880 in education tax credits, and $90 in FWS. (Figure SA-1, Table SA-3)
- In 2020-21, graduate students received an average of $26,920 per FTE student in financial aid: $8,860 in grants, $17,540 in federal loans, $460 in tax credits, and $60 in FWS. (Figure SA-1, Table SA-3)
- As of March 2021, 54% of borrowers with outstanding federal education debt owed less than $20,000; by contrast, 10% of borrowers owed $80,000 or more and they held 45% of the total outstanding federal education loan debt. (Figure SA-10)
- As of March 2021, 23% of the $1.59 trillion outstanding federal education loan balance was held by borrowers who were 50 and older, up from 18% in 2017. Among the group of borrowers with outstanding debt balances of $200,000 or more, two-thirds are over age 35, including 28% over age 50. (Figures SA-12A and SA-12B)
- In 2019-20, 55% of bachelor’s degree recipients from public and private nonprofit four-year colleges and universities graduated with debt and had an average debt level of $28,400. (Figure SA-14)
- The total amount of grant aid supporting postsecondary students increased by 133% (after adjusting for inflation) between 2000-01 and 2010-11 and by another 8% between 2010-11 and 2020-21, reaching a total of $138.6 billion. (Figure SA-5)
- Pell Grant expenditures peaked in 2010-11 at $42.3 billion (in 2020 dollars) and declined to $26.0 billion by 2020-21. (Figure SA-15B)
- Between 2010-11 and 2020-21, institutional grant aid rose by $25.6 billion (in 2020 dollars), reaching a total of $71.1 billion in 2020-21. Institutional grants accounted for about half of all grant aid for undergraduate and graduate students in 2020-21. (Figure SA-5)
- State grant aid per FTE undergraduate student rose for the eighth consecutive year in 2019-20, to $980—an increase of $230 (31%) since 2011-12. State grant aid per FTE undergraduate student ranged from under $200 in eight states to $1,000 or more in 18 states. (Figures SA-17A and SA-18A)
- Average HEERF I funding per FTE student was higher at institutions with higher shares of Pell Grant recipients. For example, in the public four-year sector, average HEERF I funding amounts were $680 at institutions where less than 30% of undergraduate students received Pell and $2,750 at institutions where undergraduate Pell enrollment was 60% or higher. (Figure SA-20A)
- In 2020-21, after the 10th consecutive decline in annual education borrowing, students and parents borrowed $95.9 billion, down from $135.1 billion (in 2020 dollars) in 2010-11. Average federal loans per student peaked in 2010-11 for both undergraduate and graduate students. Federal loans per FTE undergraduate student declined to $3,780 in 2020-21, from a peak of $6,160 (in 2020 dollars) in 2010-11. Federal loans per FTE graduate student declined to $17,540 in 2020-21, from a peak of $20,280 in 2010-11. (Figures SA-1 and SA-6)
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