Affordability: Improvements, Declines, and Gaps in Performance

The nation’s colleges and universities have become less affordable for students and their families since the early 1990s. This year continues the trend in deteriorating college affordability in the majority of states. Although many states increased their investment in need-based financial aid, tuition increases outpaced growth in financial aid. In all but two states, the percentage of family income, after financial aid, needed to pay for a public four-year college has increased since 2000. On average, students from working and poor families must pay 40% of family income to enroll in public four-year colleges. Students from middle-income families and upper-income families must pay 25% and 13% of family income, respectively, to enroll in public four-year colleges.

Key Indicator: Percentage of income (average of all income groups) needed to pay for college expenses at public four-year institutions

Improved    2 states improved or stayed the same on the key indicator Declined    48 states declined on the key indicator

Declines in Family Ability to Pay*

(An increase in the percentage of income needed to pay for college expenses represents a decline in affordability.)

Percentage of income needed to pay for college expenses minus financial aid at community colleges

North Dakota16% to 27%
West Virginia20% to 29%
Massachusetts18% to 26%
Florida18% to 25%
Texas15% to 21%
Illinois19% to 24%
Washington20% to 25%
Arizona17% to 21%

Percentage of income needed to pay for college expenses minus financial aid at public four-year institutions

Illinois19% to 35%
New Jersey19% to 34%
Delaware 23% to 37%
Minnesota17% to 30%
Oklahoma12% to 25%
Pennsylvania29% to 41%

Percentage of income needed to pay for college expenses minus financial aid at private four-year institutions

Arizona50% to 79%
Missouri44% to 69%
Texas42% to 67%
Pennsylvania69% to 87%
New York72% to 87%

 

Improvements in State Investment

State investment in need-based financial aid as a percentage of the federal investment

North Carolina3% to 70%
Virginia 6% to 50%
Montana1% to 9%
Utah1% to 8%
Washington24% to 108%
Texas7% to 32%
Delaware13% to 49%
Missouri8% to 29%
West Virginia12% to 43%

 

Declines in State Investment

State investment in need-based financial aid as a percentage of the federal investment

Georgia4% to 0%
Hawaii8% to 5%
Rhode Island36% to 28%
Iowa40% to 33%
Michigan33% to 28%
Illinois89% to 82%

 

* For these indicators, an increase (in the percentage of income needed to pay for college expenses) represents a decline in affordability.