EPI's weekly illustration of education data trends — March 9, 2016

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Average Net Cost of a Four-Year Public Institution by Median Family Income quartile, and median household income, 1999-2000 to 2011-12

 

It is not a well-kept secret that the cost of postsecondary education continues to increase. Past EPIGraphs have clearly illustrated these trends over time. However, the graphic generated by EPI this week shows the impact of net cost of attendance, including tuition, fees, room, board, and ancillary costs, over time as reflected by the median family income in the United States.

As illustrated, the affordability at a four-year institution has gone up for all sectors. The net cost, on average, has risen 80 percent between 1999-2000 and 2011-12. And while we always have a keen eye toward low-income students, their increases went up the lowest of any group (69 percent). The largest increases were at the top distribution, where the highest quartile increased 90 percent and the third quartile 85 percent (the second quartile rose 74 percent).

Even if one subscribes to the theory that the most affluent quartile can afford the increases of almost doubling cost of attendance, the middle class—the second and third quartiles—are hurting significantly as wages have decreased during this time. The blue bars in the background show the median household income for families during this period, which have decreased 9 percent, on average, across all households.

SOURCES: The College Board Annual Survey of Colleges; NCES IPEDS data.http://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/net-price; US Census Bureau, Historical Income Tables https://www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/data/historical/household/.