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In a nutshell
- Growth in tuition and fee charges at public universities and community colleges is making college less affordable to the typical household. For public universities, average annual charges as a percentage of median household income have grown almost three-fold over the last three decades.
- Tuition has risen significantly faster than institutional spending, so spending alone cannot explain the sharp growth in tuition charges. Data analysis suggests that slow growth in public operating support has been a key driver, especially for public universities.
- While growth in financial aid grants has helped mitigate some of the out-of-pocket tuition and fee costs to students and families, affordability has still declined even after factoring in increased financial aid availability.