Understanding College Affordability
How Students, Institutions, and the Public Pay for Higher Education
Rising concerns over college tuition and student debt, combined with the widespread conviction that a degree is essential for a middle-class lifestyle, have led to a sense that college in the United States has become "unaffordable." But what does affordability actually mean?Learn about the project
Update January 2018: Both the options and the challenges students and families face in financing higher education vary considerably from state to state—what steps are states taking to address college affordability? Learn more in our new state policy section.
What Is College?
Nonprofit or for profit, public or private, two-year or four-year—colleges, much like the students who attend them, come in all shapes and sizes.
The Cost of Educating Students
Tuition and fees cover only a fraction of what an education actually costs. How do institutions fund the rest?
Prices and Expenses
Tuition is the most obvious expense facing college students, but it’s far from the only budget item they must consider when planning for college.
Financial aid helps students and families pay tuition, fees, and other expenses associated with going to college. Where does that aid come from, and which students get it?
How do students fill the financial gap between the financial aid they’re offered and the full cost of attending college?
College affordability isn’t just about the resources available when a student enrolls. How well the investment of time and money pays off is just as important.
Explore Student Profiles
College affordability is different depending on who you are, where you come from, and where you go. Explore these student profiles to better understand how different circumstances and decisions affect different students.