What's Behind High College Price Tags

May 19, 1989

Report Outline
Special Focus


Extremely high tuitions are the province of only the most selective colleges and universities in the country, but the price of a college education is on the rise across the board. The good news is that the institutions themselves are providing more student aid; the bad news is that many more parents and students are finding it necessary to borrow money to pay for college. What's behind the tuition increases? And is college worth the burdensome expense?

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If one college or university were as good as any other, there would be no reason for anyone to be concerned about rising tuitions. The average cost of tuition and fees at a four-year public college is only about $1,500 a year; add in room and board, and the annual tab still comes to only about $4,300. Some private institutions are also inexpensive.

But all colleges and universities are not equally good, and the price of an education seems high and climbing at the more selective private ones—and even some of the top public institutions. At the University of Virginia, for example, tuition for an out-of-state resident, mandatory fees and room and board came to $9,175 this year. (The bill was less for state residents, of course, $5,365.) As for the highly selective private institutions, a year at Princeton University will cost more than $19,000 in 1989–90, a year at Sarah Lawrence College nearly $20,000.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Oct. 25, 2019  College Costs
Nov. 18, 2016  Student Debt
Oct. 21, 2011  Student Debt
Jan. 25, 2008  Student Aid
Dec. 05, 2003  Rising College Costs
Nov. 20, 1992  Paying for College
May 19, 1989  What's Behind High College Price Tags
May 23, 1986  Student Aid
Aug. 14, 1981  Tuition Tax Credits
Feb. 24, 1971  College Financing
Nov. 27, 1968  Financing of Private Colleges
Mar. 25, 1959  Costs of Education
May 04, 1955  Higher Education For The Millions
College Financing and Funding
Undergraduate and Graduate Education