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Charting The Insanely High (And Rapidly Rising) Cost Of College

Students are being saddled with enormous amounts of debt just to get a degree, and how much it costs is going way up. This infographic shows just how much.

  • <p>Since 1978, college tuition has increased 1,120%.</p>
  • <p>Growth in tuition and fees.</p>
  • <p>Growth in student debt.</p>
  • 01 /03

    Since 1978, college tuition has increased 1,120%.

  • 02 /03

    Growth in tuition and fees.

  • 03 /03

    Growth in student debt.

One of the cornerstones of the American dream is that a first-rate education be available to anyone who seeks it out. But in 2013, what is a first-rate education worth, and how much does it cost?

Since 1978, the cost of attending college in America has increased 1,120 percent. And as you can see in this infrographic the financial model for higher education looks broken, as tuition costs are rising faster than inflation. This infographic breaks down the small fortunes that students are investing in their academic lives—implicitly asking why it has to be this way, and explicitly advising future students on how to minimize their debt.

The graphic comes on the heels of data saying that half of all employed college graduates have jobs that don’t require college degrees. Now, if you believe that a college education is a path toward wealth acquisition or a tool for class mobility, then this is a problem. The other view is that the goal of a liberal arts education is to have an educated electorate. In either case, the system is failing if it prices the masses out of attendance (or burdens them with lifelong debt). And considering that, according to the graphic, the average graduate’s debt totals $27,500, it’s no wonder that pundits are likening student loans to the housing bubble.

It bears reminding that the graphic was created by CourseSmart, a provider of digital textbooks. Clearly, CourseSmart is in a position to benefit from pointing out how students can save money (say, with digital course materials as opposed to traditional ones). But that shouldn’t mitigate the value of the graphic, which demands we pay attention to classroom costs. We’re already paying the bill.

The full infographic is below:

[ILLUSTRATION: Education via Shutterstock]