Tuition costs vary widely across the United States—but is it just because the cost of living also varies widely from state to state?
No, according to Preston Cooper, who analyzed the list price of public institutions after adjusting for the cost of living in a recent article for Forbes.
Cooper used the regional price parity index (RPP) by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, a commonly accepted measure for cost of living. He adjusted in-state tuition for public colleges in each state to account for cost of living in that state. For example, he writes, actual tuition for public institutions in the state of Montana is $6,443, but $6,796 is his adjusted tuition price.
Cooper ranked states based on the price of tuition for its public colleges and universities after adjusting for cost of living. Based on Cooper's analysis, the 10 states where college tuition feels the priciest are:
- New Hampshire
- South Carolina
- New Jersey
- Rhode Island
Based on Cooper's analysis, the 10 states where tuition feels the most affordable are:
- North Carolina
- West Virginia
- North Dakota
Cooper writes that it's important to know the list does not take other price factors into account, such as the amount of grant aid students receive from either the state or federal government. He also points out that he didn't adjust for institution quality (or perceived quality). Cooper writes that students and their families are generally willing to pay more for a more elite university, which could increase tuition across the entire state (Cooper, Forbes, 6/26).
What really contributes to rising college costs? Hint: It's not climbing walls.
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