Public higher education costs expressed in national averages obscure important variations in price and affordability, according to a report from the Urban Institute.
Also from EAB Daily Briefing: Fact-checking the narrative about exploding tuition costs
In- and out-of-state tuition costs, grant aid, and other variables range between states, researchers say.
Last year, the national in-state tuition average of a four-year public college was about $9,000 per year, but New Hampshire students paid $15,000 while Wyoming students paid less than $5,000.
Cost changes vary by state as well. Maine's college costs grew just 1% from 2009 to 2015, while Louisiana's college costs jumped 56% over the same period.
And while the national average shows per-student funding is lower than the Great Recession, looking at individual states reveals a more complicated picture.
"Funding has increased in a few states and plummeted far more than the national average in others. In some states, overall funding has sharply declined, while in other states, the challenge has been keeping up with skyrocketing postsecondary enrollment," write authors Sandy Baum and Martha Johnson.
Even when costs in terms of dollars may be similar, affordability may differ significantly relative to income. Connecticut's median income for a family of four in 2013 was about $107,000 while in Mississippi and Arkansas it just broke $58,000 (Svrluga, "Grade Point," Washington Post, 11/4).
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