College Costs Rising Four Times Faster Than Income, Two and a Half Times Faster Than Pell

Over the last three decades, college costs have soared, rising nearly four times faster than median family income and two and a half times faster than the maximum Pell Grant. Financial aid has not filled the growing gap, and “unmet financial need”—the share of college costs not covered by financial aid or what the family is expected to contribute—has risen sharply. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, half of community college students had unmet financial need in 2007- 08, averaging $4,500 annually, as did 43 percent of students at public four-year colleges, with their unmet need averaging $6,400 per year.

Source: Darcie Harvey (National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education) and CLASP analysis based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Price Index, All Urban Consumers. Median family income is from U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplements and the American Community Survey. Maximum Pell Grant from Department of Education, Pell Grant End-of-Year Report (2010-2011). Adapted from figure in Lifting the Fog on Inequitable Financial Aid Policies, Lynch, Engle, and Cruz (2011).

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