The rising cost of college tuition is taking a toll on America’s bank accounts. It was once possible to pay for college with just a summer job. Over the last few decades, the price of tuition and fees at the average university has skyrocketed, and financial aid options have failed to keep up. Between 2017 and 2018, tuition and fees increased by less than 2 percent, with private colleges getting more expensive faster than public colleges. But the biggest jump between two years happened in 2009 during the great recession. Public colleges at that time reported an average jump of around 10 percent in the cost of tuition and fees.

Rising Cost of Education

Colleges collect a lot of data. One of the pieces of data that's the most widely available for any institution is college tuition costs.

College tuition costs much more than it did just a few decades ago. In 1987, the average cost of college for a four-year public institution was $3,190 per year. That number is even adjusted to match the current value of the dollar today. Rising tuition costs statistics show that tuitions have more than tripled in the last 30 years. For the 2017-2018 school year, the average cost of tuition at a four-year public institution was $9,970.

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What About Private College Tuition?

Rising tuition costs for private colleges aren’t quite as steep. In 1987, the average cost of college for a four-year private institution was $15,160 per year. For the 2017-2018 school year, the average cost of tuition at a private four-year institution was $34,740. That means if a student took out student loans to cover the full cost of tuition for four years of private school, they'd be almost $140,000 in debt by the end of their senior year.

Is There any Hope?

The rising cost of college has many students worried that they might not be able to go to school. Or, if they do, they'll never be able to pay it back. Don’t worry. If this is you, you have some options.

One way to combat the rising cost of college is to seek out and apply for financial aid that you don’t have to pay back. This includes federal funding like Pell Grants. It also includes private scholarships that you should be able to find online. Some schools offer work-study programs to help defray the costs of going to school, and a few schools are trying to make tuition free.

About the Author

Rebecca Renner is a writer and editor out of South Florida. Her essays have been featured in the Washington Post, New York Magazine, and Glamour. She is working on a novel.