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Projects & Initiatives

How much do in-state students pay in tuition and fees to attend four-year public universities?

Download the fact sheet & infographicAverage Net Cost for Public Universities

Published in-state tuition and fees at public four-year universities averaged $10,740 during the 2021-22 school year, compared with $38,070 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 $2,640 in tuition and fees during the 2021-22 academic year, compared with $14,990 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 $8,100 in grant aid and tax benefits during the 2021-22 school year. Grant aid includes federal programs like Pell Grants and veteran’s benefits, as well as state and institutional grants and scholarships.

An Investment, In perspective

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. According to research from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, investing in stocks has yielded an annual return of 7 percent since 1950 and the return for a college degree today is about 15 percent. 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 in past recessions have pressured public institutions to make up some of their lost funding through tuition increases in recent decades. On an inflation-adjusted basis, appropriations per full-time student remain nearly 15 percent lower than they were in 2001.

Download the fact sheet & infographic

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Public university leaders have spent years creating and testing solutions to help students succeed in college, complete their degrees, and be well-prepared for the workforce. These efforts have achieved significant success at individual institutions, but have not been fully brought to scale across the public higher education sector.

That’s why nearly 125 institutions have joined together to increase college access, student, and postsecondary attainment. The initiative, called Powered by Publics: Scaling Student Success, represents the largest-ever collaborative effort to improve college access, advance equity, and increase college degrees awarded.

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