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The Rising Cost of College in the U.S.

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average cost of college in the U.S.

The Briefing

  • Since 1980, college tuition and fees in the U.S. have increased by 1,200%
  • Because of the shift to online classes, 2020 saw the lowest tuition increase in the last four decades

The Rising Cost of College in America

The average cost of getting a college degree has soared relative to overall inflation over the last few decades.

Since 1980, college tuition and fees are up 1,200%, while the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all items has risen by only 236%.

The Average Cost of College Over Time

Back in 1980, it cost $1,856 to attend a degree-granting public school in the U.S., and $10,227 to attend a private school after adjusting for inflation.

Since then, the figures have skyrocketed. Here’s how college tuition and the CPI have both changed since 1980:

YearAvg. Undergrad Tuition and Fees (Public) Avg. Undergrad Tuition and Fees (Private)CPI % Change (College Tuition and Fees)
CPI % Change (All Items)
1980$1,856$10,2270%0%
1990$2,750$16,590150.2%63.5%
2000$3,706$21,698382.5%117%
2010$5,814$25,250828.6%178.8%
2020$9,403$34,0591198.9%231.82%

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. News
Note: Tuition and fees are in constant 2018-19 dollars. For public schools, in-state tuition and fees are used. All CPI % change values calculated for the month of January.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest year-over-year change in college tuition and fees was recorded in June 1982 at 14.2%— and over that same time period, overall inflation was up 6.6%.

On the other hand, November 2020 saw the lowest year-over-year change in the average cost of college at 0.6%, mainly as a result of the shift to online classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, some schools are offering discounts to students, and some are even canceling scheduled tuition increases entirely in a bid to remain attractive.

Why is the Cost of College Rising?

While it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons behind the rapid surge in the cost of education, a few factors could help explain why U.S. colleges hike their prices.

  • Decrease in State Funding
    State funding per student fell from $8,800 (2007-08) to $8,200 (2018-19), while the share of tuition in college revenues increased.
  • Increase in Demand
    The demand for a college education has increased over time. Between 2000-2018, undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting institutions increased by 26%.
  • Increase in Federal Aid
    According to a study from the New York Fed, every $1 in subsidized federal student loans increases college tuition by $0.60. Student loan debt has doubled since the 2008 recession.

Furthermore, the costs of providing education, known as institutional expenditures, have also escalated over time. These include spending on instruction, student services, administrative support, operations, and maintenance—all of which are critical to the student experience.

With student debt at unprecedented levels and ongoing public debates surrounding the rising costs of education, it’s uncertain how college tuition will evolve. However, given the onset of virtual classes, further hikes to college tuitions may be on hold for the foreseeable future.

Where does this data come from?

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Details: Data for the average cost of college comes from the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for College Tuition and Fees. Overall inflation is measured by the CPI for all items (CPI-U). Data is seasonally adjusted and the reference base for the indices is 1982-84 = 100.

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Datastream

How Does the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Invest Its Money?

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is funded by a trust that has a portfolio value of over $25 billion. Here’s how it invests its assets.

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Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

The Briefing

  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Trust has a total portfolio value of over $25 billion
  • Almost half of the money is invested in Berkshire Hathaway, a holding company run by chairman and CEO Warren Buffett
  • The trust favors industrial stocks, with a 34% weighting in the sector

How Does the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Invest Its Money?

Bill and Melinda Gates have announced they are ending their marriage, but will continue to work together at their foundation.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, launched in 2000, is the largest private philanthropic organization in the United States. It has spent over $50 billion on global public health over the last two decades, including $1.75 billion on COVID-19 relief.

Of course, the foundation’s assets are managed by a trust until they are ready to be distributed to grantees. Here’s a look at how the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Trust invests its assets.

The Portfolio Breakdown

The trust has invested 100% of its holdings in stocks. It holds almost half of its value in Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company run by Warren Buffett.

StockValue% of Portfolio
Berkshire Hathaway$11.8B45.5%
Waste Management$2.6B10.0%
Caterpillar$2.6B10.0%
Canadian National Railway$1.9B7.2%
Walmart$1.6B6.4%
Crown Castle$1.0B3.9%
Ecolab$991M3.8%
UPS$960M3.7%
FedEx$921M3.6%
Schrodinger$518M2.0%
Coca-Cola FEMSA$294M1.1%
Grupo Televisa$213M0.8%
Liberty Global$156M0.6%
Apple$133M0.5%
Amazon$102M0.4%
Alphabet (Google)$102M0.4%
Twitter$15M0.1%
Liberty Latin America$14M0.1%

However, the portfolio is more diversified than initially meets the eye—Berkshire Hathaway itself is invested in almost 50 stocks.

Shrodinger, a healthcare-focused software company that makes up 2% of the trust’s total portfolio, was one of the best performing stocks of 2020 by price returns. The portfolio has also been boosted by delivery companies UPS and FedEx, both of which saw their share prices more than double over the last year as online shopping took off.

While the trust is dominated by U.S.-domiciled companies, a few foreign names do make the list. For example, Canadian National Railway makes up over 7% of the portfolio, while the Latin American bottler Coca-Cola FEMSA makes up just over 1%.

The Future of the Foundation

The trust continues to be managed by a team of outside investment managers, whose decisions have a critical impact on the amount of money the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has to fund its initiatives. For example, if Berkshire Hathaway were to dip 10%, this would drop the portfolio value by more than $1 billion.

In addition, the foundation is funded in part by the Gates’ personal donations—more than $36 billion from 1994 to 2018. Should Bill and Melinda go on to create their own separate philanthropic efforts post-divorce, the foundation may have a smaller portfolio to pull from going forward.

» Like this? Then you might also like The Warren Buffett Empire in One Giant Chart

Where does this data come from?

Source: SEC filings and MarketWatch
Notes: Portfolio holdings are as of December 31, 2020. Stock values are as of market close on May 3, 2021.

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Datastream

How Media Consumption Has Changed Over the Last Decade (2011-2021)

The media consumption landscape in 2021 is shifting. Time spent on media continues to spike, with mobile challenging for the top spot

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changing media consumption

The Briefing

  • Since 2011, media consumption for U.S. adults is up 20% across all categories
  • An average of 4 hours and 12 minutes is spent on mobile devices

Media Consumption in 2021

There are a wide array of apps and life hacks out there designed to help regulate personal internet use and media consumption, but the data suggests they haven’t been working. Today, we consume more media than at any point in time in the last decade.

This data from Recode looks at how many minutes U.S. adults spend on various forms of media, comparing mobile, desktop, radio, television, and magazines.

How Many Minutes are Spent on Media?

In 2021, collective media consumption continues its upward trajectory, and is set to be at the highest it’s ever been. In 2021, overall media consumption among U.S. adults is estimated to be around 666 minutes per day, or 11.1 hours—a 20.2% increase from 2011.

YearMobileDesktopRadioTelevisionMagazinesTotal
2021252509925312666
20202315010025813652
20192085110026414637
20181905210227015629
20171645310228217618
20161365310528718599
20151245610928919597
2014886711129820584
2013746711630621584
2012606812031423585
2011454013131424554

Although media consumption has grown overall, this is predominantly driven by mobile usage. In fact, every category with the exception of mobile has shrunk from their respective peaks. Mobile on the other hand, has grown a whopping 460% in 10 years, from an average daily use of 45 minutes to a staggering 252 minutes.

Consumption by Generation

Disparities in media consumption have a generational aspect that’s worth noting, as well. For instance, older Americans like Baby Boomers still consume media routinely through television. On the other hand, younger cohorts like Millennials and Gen Z tend to consume more through mobile.

Increasing internet use has come with criticism, and is said to be partially responsible for our waning attention spans. With only 1,440 minutes in a day, it remains unknown exactly how many minutes we will continue to direct towards mobile use. But with figures growing 9% last year, we may not have yet reached the peak.

Where does this data come from?

Source: Recode
Notes: 2021 figures are projections by Zenith Media

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