The Cost of Getting There

I often use this blog to post data from studies conducted by highly trained researchers. And while it takes innumerable hours, intellectual perseverance, money, collaboration, and oversight to collect and publish such data, it also takes substantial resources for people to attain the credentials needed to conduct such studies. Yes, I’m talking about college. More specifically, the cost of college. We know costs are rising in almost all U.S. educational institutions, but how bad is it? Is an advanced degree attainable to the average American? What does it cost to “get there” — to go to college with the hope and promise of better job options in the future?

To answer this question, I visited a fascinating new website out there that tracks college costs over time: www.tuitiontracker.org. Not only does it track sticker price (the sum of tuition and required fees, books and supplies, and the average room, board, and other expenses, as indicated by the red line) over the last 5 years, it also tracks net price (the sticker price minus grants or scholarships from the federal, state/local government or the institution). The net prices are shown as colored lines grouped by average family income since income largely determines financial aid and scholarships.

I just took a look at three institutions for the purposes of this blog, shown in order below: University of Connecticut, University of Hartford, and my undergraduate alma mater, Cornell University.

1. University of Connecticut

Taken from www.tuitiontracker.org


2. University of HartfordTaken from www.tuitiontracker.org

3. Cornell UniversityTaken from www.tuitiontracker.org

There are some compelling themes that emerge from looking at these tuition trends:

1) Sticker price does not equal net price

2) Some schools are less expensive than others for almost ANY family

3) Some schools are less expensive than others but only for families in certain income brackets

4) Some schools do a very good job of keeping tuition quite low for all  families, whereas some schools do a very good job of keeping tuition low for certain families.

So, can you get there from here? Can college open the doors to exciting careers in research, innovation, science and technology? Certainly…but choose wisely. Perhaps the most important dataset you’ll ever analyze in life is the first one: the cost of college tuition of you and your family.


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