How much has the average cost of attending college at four-year degree-granting institution in the U.S. risen since the 1969-1970 school year?
For an American student who enrolled in a four-year college in the fall of 1969, the average they paid for their tuition, required fees, room and board totaled $754, which when we adjust for inflation be be in terms of constant 2011 U.S. dollars, works out to be the near modern day equivalent of $4,619.
But a student enrolling in the same kind of institution in the fall of 2011 for the 2011-2012 school year would pay $13,608. Nearly three times as much.
To get a better sense of how affordable, or rather, unaffordable attending college has become, we next calculated the percentage that the average cost of tuition and fees for college would consume of the typical income earned by American households:
In the chart above, we see that after holding basically flat from 1969 through 1982 at a range between 8.6% and 9.0% of the median American household income, the ratio of the cost of attending college with respect to that income began rising rapidly, with the cost of college having reached 26.7% of the American median household income in 2011-2012.
We also see that there would appear to be certain periods where the cost of attending college rose considerably faster than median household incomes, which we've shaded in the chart above.
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