College Has Gotten 12 Times More Expensive in One Generation

And student debt has skyrocketed. Welcome back to school!


As bright-eyed college freshmen arrive on campus, they can look forward to accruing knowledge, independence, lifelong friendships—and serious bills. In the 2012-13 school year, first-year, on-campus tuition averaged $43,000 at four-year, private schools and $21,700 at in-state public schools.

It wasn’t always like this: The cost of undergraduate education is 12 times higher than it was 35 years ago, far outpacing inflation. While the indexed price of college tuition and fees skyrocketed by more than 1,122 percent since 1978, the cost of medical care rose less than 600 percent, and the cost of housing and food went up less than 300.

 

Back in 1993, 47 percent of college students graduated with debt, owing an average of $9,450 per grad. As tuition rates have shot up, so has student debt: 71 percent of the class of 2012 graduated with outstanding loans, owing an average of $29,400. That’s more than 65 percent of the entire first-year salary of an average recent grad.

 

That debt has lasting consequences. Households headed by a young adult (under 40) with a college education and student debt have a median net worth of just $8,700. Student debt constrains young people’s ability to start a business, buy a home, or pursue a public-interest career.
 

In June, Republicans blocked Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s proposed student loan reform bill, which would allow about 25 million Americans to refinance their older federal loans (some of which are locked into interest rates of 9 percent or higher) at the current, lower rate. (At the time the bill was introduced, the interest rate was 3.86 percent; it rose to 4.66 percent in July.)

Warren has also advocated for more sweeping reforms, including a rejected amendment to the Higher Education Act of 1965 that would give students the same low interest rate enjoyed by banks—0.75 percent. As Warren argued the case in a MoveOn.org petition: “Wall Street banks—the ones that wrecked our economy—should not be getting a better interest rate on their government loans than young people trying to go to college.”
 

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate