Tufts by Numbers: Will the tuition bubble ever be burst?

Almost one month ago, Tufts students and parents were notified that tuition for the upcoming 2017–2018 school year will rise by 3.6 percent, tying up a Tufts education with a price tag of $68,372 for all tuition and fees. This increase matched that of last year and has students and family members worried – not only about paying for next year’s tuition, but about what a Tufts education could cost just a few years down the line. As costs for college climb steadily upwards, will they ever hit a ceiling?

To learn more about the trends in Tufts tuition costs, I took a look at patterns in national tuition costs. Examining data reported by the College Board, the average cost of tuition at a private, four-year, postsecondary academic institution was $1,832 in 1971 when translated to current dollars. For the current academic year, that average cost of tuition has risen to $33,479. Significantly lower than the tuition price tag at Tufts, this data emphasizes Tufts’ elite and expensive standing in a pool of similar colleges at which tuition has been rising steadily.

The rate of tuition increase has also changed since the 1970s, spiking in 1989 with a tuition increase of nine percent. Additionally, average tuition costs have not declined since 1981 and have not remained steady between two academic years since 2001.

Maybe more frightening than this steady increase is the astronomical impact that even a small percentage increase now has on college’s large price tag. Though the current rate of annual tuition increase has sat between 1 and 3 percent for the past few years, the impact that this increase has on today’s large tuition numbers is substantive. After all, just a one percent increase on a tuition of $35,000 tacks a few thousand dollars onto an already huge tuition sum.

The neat and tidy trend line of rising national tuition costs points to a pretty ugly reality and an even scarier future. How much more money can a university education be valued at before it looses its worth – or at least accessibility – completely?


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