Charted: The Rising Average Cost of College in the U.S.
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The Rising Cost of College in the U.S.

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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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Visualizing the Five Drivers of Forest Loss

Approximately 15 billion trees are cut down annually across the world. Here’s a look at the five major drivers of forest loss. (Sponsored)

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The Briefing

  • On average, the world loses more than 20 million hectares of forests annually.
  • Agriculture and commodity-driven deforestation each account for approximately a quarter of annual forest loss.

Visualizing the Five Drivers of Forest Loss

The world has lost one-third of its forests since the ice age, and today, approximately 15 billion trees are cut down annually.

Forests are wellsprings of biodiversity and an essential buffer against climate change, absorbing billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year. Yet, forest loss continues to grow.

The above infographic sponsored by Carbon Streaming Corporation highlights the five primary drivers behind forest loss.

Deforestation vs. Degradation

‘Forest loss’ is a broad term that captures the impacts of both permanent deforestation and forest degradation. There is an important distinction between the two:

  • Permanent deforestation: Refers to the complete removal of trees or conversion of forests to another land use (like buildings), where forests cannot regrow.
  • Forest degradation: Refers to a reduction in the density of trees in the area without a change in land use. Forests are expected to regrow.

Forest degradation accounts for over 70% or 15 million hectares of annual forest loss. The other 30% of lost forests are permanently deforested.

Driving factorCategoryAverage annual forest loss (2001-2015, million hectares)
Commodity-driven deforestationPermanent deforestation5.7
UrbanizationPermanent deforestation0.1
Forestry productsForest degradation5.4
Shifting agricultureForest degradation5
WildfiresForest degradation4.8
TotalN/A21

Commodity-driven deforestation, which includes removal of forests for farming and mining, is the largest driver of forest loss. Agriculture alone accounts for three-fourths of all commodity-driven deforestation, where forests are often converted into land for cattle ranches and plantations.

The harvesting of forestry products like timber, paper, pulp, and rubber accounts for the largest share of forest loss from degradation. This process is often managed and planned so that forests can regrow after the harvest.

Shifting agriculture and wildfires each account for around 5 million hectares or one-fourth of annual forest loss. In both cases, forests can replenish if the land is left unused.

Urbanization—the conversion of forests into land for cities and infrastructure—is by far the smallest contributor, accounting for less than 1% of annual forest loss.

How Much Carbon Do Forests Absorb?

The world’s forests absorbed nearly twice as much carbon dioxide (CO2) as they emitted between 2001 and 2019, according to research published in Nature.

On a net basis, forests sequester 7.6 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) annually, which equates to around 15% of global CO2e emissions. As the impacts of climate change intensify, protecting forests from deforestation and degradation is increasingly critical.

Carbon Streaming Corporation accelerates climate action through carbon credit streams on REDD+ projects that protect the Earth’s forests. Click here to learn more now.

Where does this data come from?

Source: Our World in Data

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Ranked: Top 10 Foreign Policy Concerns of Americans

As the world’s superpower, the U.S. has major influence in world events. Which foreign policy concerns stand out for Americans?

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The Briefing

  • Political leanings aside, terrorism remains a top issue of concern for Americans
  • Previous top issues, such as disinformation and U.S.–China relations, now rank lower

In the United States, there is a distinct difference on top foreign policy concerns between Democrats and Republicans.

This chart uses data from Morning Consult to assess the top policy concerns of Americans.

The Top Concerns

Overall, the average American is most concerned about terrorism, immigration, and drug trafficking. Interestingly, this list corresponds with the concerns of the average Republican, though falling in a different order.

Meanwhile, Democrats are chiefly worried about climate change, another global pandemic, and terrorism.

Here’s a breakdown of the policy concerns at large and across political parties.

Overall Rank with AmericansForeign Policy ConcernShare of Voters Listing it as a Top ConcernShare of Democrats Listing it as a Top ConcernShare of Republicans Listing it as a Top Concern
#1Terrorism49%38%62%
#2Immigration43%22%67%
#3Drug trafficking43%30%59%
#4Cyberattacks39%35%40%
#5Climate change38%54%17%
#6Preventing a global economic crisis32%33%31%
#7Securing critical supply chains30%27%34%
#8Preventing another global pandemic30%38%22%
#9Russia's invasion of Ukraine27%33%21%
#10Protecting human rights globally25%31%18%
#11Preventing disinformation24%29%21%
#12U.S.-China relations24%19%31%
#13Iran nuclear deal21%19%24%
#14Upholding democracy globally15%22%8%

Notably, the concern around U.S.-China relations ranks considerably low, as does preventing disinformation. Upholding democracy worldwide ranks extremely low with Republicans.

America’s Foreign Policy

Along party lines, the results are not surprising. Democrats skew towards multilateralism and want to engage with foreign bodies and other countries to tackle global issues. Republicans are generally more concerned with what’s happening at home.

Looking at the country as a whole and its relations with other nations, however, Americans lean more towards an America-first focus. According to Morning Consult, 39% of registered voters want to decrease U.S. involvement in other countries’ affairs, whereas 20% want to increase it; 30% want to keep the status quo.

Here’s a closer look at Americans’ desire to get involved in a variety of foreign policy initiatives:

IssueIncrease EffortsDecrease EffortsNeither
Overseas Troop Deployment21%37%30%
Trade and Tariffs41%15%29%
Involvement with International Organizations35%21%32%
Resolution of Military Disputes38%16%33%
Resolution of Economic Disputes43%13%31%

As of October 2022

The U.S. Midterm Elections

With midterm elections underway, America’s foreign policy may not be the most important factor for voters. Pew Research Center found that in these congressional elections, foreign policy only ranked 12th among other key issues considered “very important” by registered voters.

The top five concerns of voters in these midterms are:

  1. The economy
  2. The future of democracy within the U.S.
  3. Education
  4. Healthcare
  5. Energy policy

Regardless, the U.S. has a massive impact in foreign affairs and the results of the country’s midterm elections will likely cause a ripple effect globally. If Republicans win the House—which is looking extremely likely—and the Senate, President Biden’s foreign policy initiatives and priorities could be drastically restricted.

Where does this data come from?

Source: Morning Consult

Data notes: This ranking is made using the share of registered U.S. voters who identified the given issue as a top 5 concern for the country. For example, only 30% of registered voters said securing critical supply chains was a top 5 concern which is why it’s #7, whereas 43% said immigration was a top concern, ranking it at #2.

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