Higher Education is Getting More Expensive, and Students are Sharing More of the Burden
More recent high school graduates are attending college. In 1980, 49.2% of recent graduates aged 16-24 enrolled in college within a year of high school graduation. In the 2016-2017 school year, that percentage rose to 69.8%.
Government spending per enrolled student in higher education reached $12,852 in 2016, an increase of 50% from $8,550 in 1980, adjusted for inflation. However, total expenditures of public higher-education institutions increased 205% in this same time period. As a result, students are sharing more of the cost of education. Today students pay 21% of the revenue of all public colleges and universities, up from 13% in 1981. Average tuition costs have increased 93% since 1993, from $6,300 in 1993 to $12,300 in 2016. To offset some of this cost increase, the average financial aid award has increased 95% since 1993, from $9,500 in 1993 to $18,600 in 2016 (Fig. 75). Non-federal loans have increased 132% since 1993, the most of any source of financial aid. Average award amounts from federal sources have increased 64%, while average award amounts from non-federal sources have increased 99%.
Unlike grants, loans have to be repaid, and students are graduating with more debt than in the past. In the 2015- 2016 school year, 61.8% of undergraduate degree completers had received a loan, up from 52.5% in the 1999-2000 school year. Meanwhile, the average cumulative loan amount has grown 22%, from $20,440 in 1999-2000 to $24,930 in 2015- 2016, adjusted for inflation.
For bachelor's degrees, business continues to be the most popular major, comprising 19% of degrees completed in 2016 (Fig. 76). Healthcare-related bachelor's degrees have consistently increased, from 7% in 1981 to 12% in 2016. Social sciences and history have declined, from 11% in 1981 to 8% in 2016.