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  Chapter Three:

  Educational Attainment
  Female Graduates
  Pupil-Teacher Ratio
  Private School
  College Tuition
  Graduate Education



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College Tuition

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Undergraduate tuition at Harvard—and virtually all other colleges—rose sharply after 1980.
Tuition at Harvard, measured in constant dollars, nearly quadrupled during the first seventy to eighty years of the century, then doubled during the last two decades alone. The chart shows the trend in tuition only. When dormitory charges, meals, books, and incidental expenses are added, the total bill for a year at Harvard in 1997 came close to the median after-tax family income. 

Some other private colleges were even more expensive. Public colleges had considerably lower tuition rates, but their charges also escalated sharply during the last two decades of the century, outpacing inflation from year to year. 

Although tuition and fees accounted for less than a fifth of the budgets of public institutions and less than half of the budgets of private institutions, they were much more amenable to institutional control than other sources of income such as government grants and private gifts. 

The recent rise in the cost of operating a college or university can be attributed to a number of factors: (1) unpredictable fluctuations in the distribution of student choices among fields of study; (2) a dramatic increase in the regulatory and reporting requirements imposed by government agencies; (3) competition from Medicaid and prison-building programs for state support; (4) the continuing exponential expansion of scholarly knowledge; and (5) the successive addition of mainframe computers, minicomputers, and personal computers to the equipment needs of libraries, classrooms, and offices. 

These rising costs were met in large part by increases in tuition and fees. A complex system of scholarships, part-time employment, parental loans, and subsidized and unsubsidized student loans filled the gap between what colleges charge and what students and their families can afford to pay.

Chapter 3 chart 6

Source Notes
Source Abbreviations

Harvard tuition costs from Ruth Loescher, Harvard Public Relations Office, telephone conversation with T. Caplow, February 18, 1999. See also Harvard University web site, (accessed April 16, 2000), and “Money Income in the United States: 1999,” Current Population Reports P60-209 (September 2000), table A.


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