Broker Check

College Planning

College is an investment for a lifetime – the gift of a college education can open the door to a world of opportunity for you child or grandchild.

Tuition Inflation

Tuition Inflation

In 2000, the average annual tuition at a four-year public college was less than $4,000. Today, it's $9,600. 1

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), after pausing briefly due to COVID-19 in 2020-2021, tuition inflation has begun to pick back up.  

In the past 20 years, college tuition and fees have grown twice as fast as the consumer price index (CPI) — a measure of what people pay for market goods like food and gas and a proxy for inflation. CPI inflation was nearly 54% from September 2001-September 2021. 2 Tuition inflation was 66%. 1

Since 2000, college tuition has also grown more than the median household income and home price.

According to data from NCES <sup>1</sup>:

According to data from NCES 1:

Over the past twenty years, tuition inflation has been slightly higher at public colleges and universities than at private ones. 1

On average, from 2001-2021, tuition and fees rose 5% a year at public four-year colleges and 3.8% a year at private four-year colleges. 

Contributing Early and Often

Contributing Early and Often

Education planning can never start “too early.” Starting early and contributing consistently is the key to college planning success. As you can see in the chart below, putting away as little as $150 per month can potentially grow your college savings nest egg to almost $50,000.

Chart Source: Fidelity 529. This hypothetical example illustrates the potential value of different regular monthly investments for different periods of time and assumes an average annual return of 4.5% rounded to the nearest $50. Contributions to a 529 plan account must be made with after-tax dollars. This does not reflect an actual investment and does not reflect any taxes, fees, expenses, or inflation. If it did, results would be lower. Returns will vary, and different investments may perform better or worse than this example. Periodic investment plans do not ensure a profit and do not protect against loss in a declining market. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Are you saving for college with that reality in mind?

Thank you!


  1. Table 330.10. Average undergraduate tuition, fees, room, and board rates charged for full-time students in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by level and control of institution: Selected years, 1963-64 through 2021-22. National Center for Education Statistics. July 2023. 
  2. Consumer Price Index Inflation Calculator, Bureau of Labor Statistics. September 2001 to September 2021. Retrieved September 2023.
  3. Median Sales Prices of Houses Sold for the United States. FRED® St. Louis Federal Reserve. September 2023. 
  4. Table D-1. Historical Median Income Using Alternative Price Indices: 1967-2021. Income in the United States 2021. U.S. Census Bureau. September 2022.