Special Report

Cost of College the Year You Were Born

The annual cost of attending a four-year private institution in the United States reached $46,950 last year, more than double what it was less than two decades ago.

For many Americans, a college degree is often regarded as a measure of success, yet a postsecondary education has become cost prohibitive for many youths, even when they receive financial aid.

Among those who choose to pursue a degree, millions rack up tens of thousands of dollars in debt, in many cases amassing a burden that will take decades to fully pay off.

Based on data provided by the College Board, a nonprofit group associated with American postsecondary institutions, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed nationwide the average costs of attending four-year public and private colleges each year since 1971. Both figures include tuition, fees, and room and board.

In 1971, a four-year education at a private college in the United States cost less than one-tenth what it does today. Even after adjusting for inflation, a year of private college costs more than two and a half times what it did back then.

To determine the cost of college the year you were born, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed enrollment-weighted historical figures for average tuition and fees, including room and board, from the College Board, a nonprofit organization working on behalf of colleges and universities. Years listed are for the beginning of the academic year. It is important to note that the inflation adjustment figures for college costs come directly from the College Board’s analysis, whereas 24/7 Wall St. made the inflation adjustment for personal income based on the personal consumption expenditure price index, which came from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, and is chained to 2009 dollars. The share of adults with at least four years of college came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.

Click here to see the cost of college the year you were born.