The Cost of College Tuition Compared To What Your Parents Paid


As college students gear up for the new semester, many of them and their families have more to worry about than homework and exams. The cost of college tuition has risen at an alarming rate over the past couple decades and (not surprisingly) student loan debt is approaching crisis levels.

Upon receiving their degree, an increasing number of graduates are finding themselves completely buried in debt. Debt that will likely take them years, if not decades, to pay off.

How much has changed?

My goal in researching and writing this piece, was to determine how much more expensive it is for kids nowadays to go to college than it was for their parents. Let’s just say, the numbers aren’t pretty…


Public University

Students who attended public (four-year) institutions paid an average of just $3,190 for the 1987-1988 school year (prices adjusted to reflect 2018 dollars). In 2018, that number has increased by 213% (not a typo) all the way to $9,970.

Public four-year institution

  • Tuition for 1987-1988: $3,190
  • Tuition for 1997-1998: $4,740
  • Tuition for 2007-2008: $7,280
  • Tuition for 2017-2018: $9,970

Private University

Students at public institutions aren’t the only ones impacted by the spike in tuition. In 1988, the average tuition for a private (“nonprofit”) institution was $15,160 (prices adjusted to reflect 2018 dollars). For the 2018 school year, that figure has jumped to $34,740, a 129% increase!

Private nonprofit four-year institution

  • Tuition for 1987-1988: $15,160
  • Tuition for 1997-1998: $21,020
  • Tuition for 2007-2008: $27,520
  • Tuition for 2017-2018: $34,740

As you would expect, the rising costs of college tuition has led to millions of Americans struggling with crippling student loan debt. According to CNBC, Americans collectively owe upwards of $1.4 trillion (with a T) in student loan debt.

Now more than ever, prospective students and current students, should seriously consider spending at least one semester at an affordable community college (assuming the community college in your area is of high quality).


5 Tips To Help You Retire 10 Years Earlier

Planning An Affordable Wedding: How Tie The Knot on a Budget

8 Interview Tips That Will Help You Get Hired

15 Perfect Destinations For A Couples Getaway

Two Minute Trick That Can Save Up To 30% On Utility Bills

Down Payments: How They Work & How Much To Pay

Kat Begonja

Kat Begonja

Lover of animals, writing and all things Croatian!

Want to Learn Ways to Make & Save Extra Money?

Sign up for Free Updates: