Published in-state tuition and fees at public four-year universities averaged $9,970 during the 2017–18 school year, compared with $34,740 at four-year, private nonprofit universities. These prices rarely reflect the actual cost students pay.
On average, in-state students at public four-year institutions paid just $4,140 in tuition and fees during the 2017–18 academic year, compared with $14,530 at four-year, private nonprofit universities. This cost, known as average net price, reflects the actual cost of tuition after scholarships, grants, and tax benefits have been taken into consideration.
Financial aid can reduce out-of-pocket costs to attend most universities. A full-time student at a public four-year institution received an average of $5,830 in grant aid and tax benefits during the 2017–18 school year. Grant aid includes federal programs like Pell Grants and veteran’s benefits, as well as state and institutional grants and scholarships.
While public universities continue to provide the most affordable path to a quality higher education and the associated benefits, steep cuts in state funding have pressured public institutions to increase tuition in order to make up some of the loses in state funding. Graduates begin reaping those benefits soon after completing their degrees and they continue to accrue over their lifetime. In fact, median lifetime earnings of bachelor’s degree recipients are 65 percent higher than those with only a high school diploma.
While public universities continue to provide the most affordable way to receive a quality higher education to help realize these benefits, steep cuts in state funding have pressured public institutions to make up some of their lost funding through tuition increases in recent years. During the six year period of 2006–07 to 2012–13, after adjusting for inflation, four-year public universities experienced state funding cuts of $2,370 per student, while tuition and fee revenues increased by only $1,940—a net loss of $430 per full-time student.