If you feel like college costs a lot more than it used to, you’re absolutely correct. The average in-state tuition at public, four-year schools has more than tripled since 1988 — even when adjusted for inflation — from the equivalent of $3,190 a year in 1988 to $9,970 in the 2017-18 school year.
The average price of a private, four-year college has surged as well, from $15,170 in 1988 (that’s using 2017 dollars) to more than $34,740 today — an increase of 129% even after inflation. It’s not just tuition, either — room and board rates at four-year colleges have doubled since 1980, even when adjusted for inflation.
Unfortunately, our ability to pay for college hasn’t kept pace with tuition and room and board fees. Because of this, students have had to borrow more and more money for school until, at this point, more than 45 million Americans carry student loan debt, with a median balance of $17,000. That figure includes working adults who’ve been paying down their loans for years; more than half of current students must take out loans, and the average debt per borrower in the class of 2016 was $27,975.
If you’re approaching college or have a child who is, these statistics are likely downright scary. While college isn’t for everyone, it’s still a necessity for students angling for certain careers (e.g., teacher, lawyer, nurse, etc.). Plus, college can serve as an important stepping stone for young people who…