Pandemic Still Impacts College Pricing and Student Aid, Annual Report Finds

By Maria Carrasco, NASFAA Staff Reporter

After the pandemic started many institutions froze tuition for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 academic years. But as the pandemic began to wane and students returned to campus, more institutions raised tuition and fees for the 2022-23 academic year than in the previous two years, according to an annual report on trends in college cost and student aid released Monday by the College Board. 

The report, released annually by the College Board, provides the latest information on student financial aid, tuition, and other expenses associated with attending college. And while tuition and fees did increase at many institutions, the College Board states that those increases were historically low at public institutions, and moderate at private nonprofit four-year institutions. 

Additionally, the report showed that borrowing and debt continue to decline, while grant aid continues to make up a larger portion of total aid to students, specifically institutional aid, which now makes up over half of all grant aid.

For the 2022-23 academic year, the average published in-state tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates at a public four-year institution was $10,940, which is $190 or 1.8% higher than last year’s average, before adjusting for inflation. The average in-district tuition for undergraduates attending a public two-year institution was $3,860, which is $60 or 1.6% higher than last year. The highest sticker price for tuition and fees was for private non-profit four-year institutions, with an average cost of $39,400, which is $1,330 or 3.5% higher. 

Though the increases in tuition and fees have slowed, between 1991 and 2021, the average family income increased by 64% for the top quintile of families and by just 17% for the lowest quintile of families. Average incomes ranged from $22,120 for the lowest quintile to $305,500 for the highest quintile and $538,470 for the top 5% of families, the College Board notes.

Along with increases in family income, the average tuition and fees between 1992-93 and 2022-23 increased from $2,340 to $3,860 at public two-year institutions, $4,870 to $10,940 at public four-year institutions, and $21,860 to $39,400 at private nonprofit four-year institutions, after adjusting for inflation. 

The average published tuition and fees across all sectors have increased significantly at the same time — the average at public four-year institutions is 2.25 times as high as it was 30 years ago. But the net cost of attendance has held relatively steady, and has even decreased in some years.

When it comes to student aid, undergraduate and graduate students received a total of $234.6 billion in student aid in the form of grants, Federal Work-Study (FWS), federal loans, and federal tax credits and deductions. That number has decreased by 18% in the past 10 years, which is most likely related to the drop in total postsecondary enrollment, College Board researchers said at an event briefing the report. Those students also borrowed about $12.7 billion from non-federal sources.

The report also shows that over time, grant aid has become a larger portion of overall aid to students. College Board notes that between 2011-12 and 2021-22, full-time equivalent undergraduate enrollment decreased by 16% while total grant aid to undergraduate students increased by 5% and total aid — including grants, loans, and other aid — decreased by 22%. Over this decade, average grant aid per undergraduate student increased by 26% and average total aid per undergraduate student decreased by 7%. 

Specifically, undergraduate students received an average of $15,330 per full-time equivalent (FTE) student in financial aid in 2021-22, with $10,590 in grants, $3,780 in federal loans, $870 in education tax credits and deductions, and $90 in FWS. Graduate students received an average of $27,300 per FTE student in financial aid ,with $9,120 in grants, $17,680 in federal loans, $440 in tax credits and deductions, and $60 in FWS.

Notably, between 2011-12 and 2021-22 academic years, institutional grant aid increased by 53% in 2021, but federal loans declined by 50% and federal Pell Grants declined by 36% in 2021 between those years. 

For the 2021-22 academic year, the total amount of grant aid for postsecondary students was $140.6 billion. Institutional grants made the highest portion of that total, at 53%, followed by federal grants at 26%, private and employer grants at 12%, and state grants at 9%.

When it comes to federal loans, after rapid growth in annual borrowing between 2006-07 and 2011-12, total federal loans to undergraduate students declined for the 11th consecutive year in 2021, a 49% decrease from a decade prior. Total federal loans to graduate students decreased by 9% between 2011-12 and 2021-22.

Additionally, in 2021-22, there were just under 6.5 million undergraduate and graduate subsidized and unsubsidized federal loan borrowers and ​​989,000 undergraduate and graduate PLUS borrowers. In 2021-22, undergraduates borrowed $43 billion in federal loans — $10.4 billion in PLUS loans, $17.2 billion in unsubsidized loans, and $15.4 billion in subsidized loans. Graduates borrowed $39 billion in federal loans — $12.4 billion in PLUS loans and $26.7 billion in unsubsidized loans. 

The College Board notes as of March 2022, 33% of borrowers owed less than $10,000 and 21% of borrowers owed between $10,000 and $20,000 in federal loan debt. These borrowers held 4% and 8% of the outstanding federal debt, respectively.


Publication Date: 10/24/2022

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