Newly released cost of attendance data for U.S. colleges and universities shows that the most expensive and least expensive schools were more likely to add students during the past five years than schools priced in the middle of the pack.
A Business Journals analysis of U.S. Department of Education statistics found that among the 65 schools priced at over $75,000 per year, enrollment grew by an average of 6% between 2016 and 2020. Likewise, 295 schools priced at $25,000 or less reported average enrollment growth of 3% during the same period. Meanwhile, 911 schools with cost of attendance between $25,000 and $75,000 posted average enrollment growth of 0% over the last five years. Total cost of attendance includes tuition, room and board, books, transportation and other miscellaneous expenses. Total cost of attendance, or sticker price, is the cost before financial aid, grants or scholarships are applied.
The findings were drawn from cost of attendance data for the 2020-2021 academic year submitted to the DOE by 1,271 four-year colleges with at least 1,000 students.
Among colleges that saw enrollment decline in the past five years, the average cost of attendance was $40,480. The data suggests that applicants are seeking the most affordable options for undergraduate degrees, especially at regional public universities, or are aiming to enroll at the country’s most competitive universities, which also happen to be the most expensive.
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John H. Clark III is an optimistic realist.