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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Charting the Continued Rise of Remote Jobs

Remote job postings are up nearly across the board, but a few key industries are have seen a significant shift over the last year.

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which industries are embracing remote work

The Briefing

  • Four industries saw massive growth in the proportion of remote-friendly job postings
  • Nearly one-third of new software and IT service jobs are listed as remote / work-from-home

Charting the Continued Rise of Remote Jobs

When the pandemic first took hold in 2020, and many workplaces around the world closed their doors, a grand experiment in work-from-home began.

Today, well over a year after the first lockdown measures were put in place, there are still lingering questions about whether remote work would now become a commonplace option, or whether things would generally return to the status quo in offices around the world.

New data from LinkedIn’s Workforce Report shows that remote work may be here to stay, and could even become the norm in a few key industries.

Broadly speaking, 12% of all Canadian paid job postings on LinkedIn offered remote work in September 2021. Prior to the pandemic, that number sat at just 1.3%.

While this data was specific to Canada, the country’s similarity to the U.S. means that these trends are likely being seen across the border as well.

Which Industries are Embracing Remote Work?

The nature of work can vary broadly by job type—for example, mining is tough to do from one’s living room sofa—so remote jobs were not distributed equally across industries.

Here are the numbers on job postings that were geared towards remote work:

Industry% Remote (Sept 2020)% Remote (Sept 2021)Change (p.p.)
Software & IT Services12.5%30.0%17.5
Media & Communications12.5%21.3%8.8
Wellness & Fitness3.3%21.2%17.9
Healthcare3.2%14.4%11.2
Nonprofit4.6%14.1%9.5
Hardware & Networking2.2%12.9%10.7
Corporate Services5.2%9.5%4.3
Education9.4%8.8%-0.6
Entertainment3.0%7.7%4.7
Finance1.8%6.5%4.7
Consumer Goods2.2%6.0%3.8
Recreation & Travel0.2%3.7%3.5
Manufacturing1.4%3.0%1.6
Energy & Mining1.0%2.7%1.7
Retail0.5%0.7%0.2

Tech and healthcare industries are showing big shifts towards remote work, with the latter being influenced by a number of tech-driven changes, including telemedicine.

Physical distancing measures forced some industries to pivot quickly. Whether virtual fitness and wellness options (e.g. Peloton and Headspace) would remain popular beyond the pandemic was a big question mark, but this jobs data seems to indicate continued digital growth in these industries.

What the Future Holds

Since COVID-19 outbreaks are still underway, the true test for this trend will be whether these numbers hold up a year or two from now. When offices and gyms are reliably open again, will companies dial back the work-from-home options?

Today, hybrid solutions are proving popular amidst worries that fully distributed teams suffer from lower levels of collaboration and communication between colleagues, and that innovation could be stifled by lack of in-person collaboration.

Of course, employees themselves are reporting being more productive and happy at home, with 98% of people wanting the option to work remotely for the rest of their careers.

It’s clear that the culture of work is undergoing an evolution today, and companies and employees will continue to seek the perfect balance of productivity and happiness.

Where does this data come from?

Source: LinkedIn’s Workforce Report for September 2021 (Canada)
Data Note: LinkedIn analyzed hundreds of thousands of paid remote job postings in Canada posted on LinkedIn between February 2020 and September 21, 2021. A “remote job” is defined as one where either the job poster explicitly labeled it as “remote” or if the job contained keywords like “work from home” in the listing.

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Print Has Prevailed: The Staying Power of Physical Books

When e-books hit the mainstream in the early 2000s, many predicted they’d eventually make print books obsolete. So far, that prediction has not come true.

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Print Books Have Prevailed

The Briefing

  • Survey data from 10 different countries shows that a majority of people still prefer print books over e-books.
  • 42.5% of respondents purchased at least one print book in 2020—that’s significantly more than the 15.5% who’d bought at least one e-book.
  • Out of the 10 countries surveyed, Germany has the most print book lovers. 58% of German respondents bought a print book in 2020.

The Staying Power of Print Books

E-books are certainly not a new phenomenon. In fact, they’ve been around longer than the internet.

Yet, while the emergence of e-books dates back to the early 1970s, they didn’t hit the mainstream until the 2000s, when big companies began launching their own e-book readers, and digital libraries started to become more accessible to the public.

Around this time, sales for e-books started to soar, and by 2013, e-book sales made up 20% of all books sales in America. Many wondered if this was the end for print books.

But fast forward to 2021, and e-books haven’t made print books obsolete. At least, not yet.

E-book versus Print Book Purchases

A recent poll found that people still favor print books over e-books, at least when it comes to their purchasing behavior.

Of the 10 countries included in the survey, an estimated 42% of people had purchased at least one print book in 2020, while only 15.5% had bought an e-book that same year.

Here’s a look at all 10 countries, and the estimated share of their population who bought physical versus e-books in 2020:

CountryPhysical BooksE-books
🇨🇳 China32.0%24.4%
🇺🇸 United States44.5%22.7%
🇬🇧 United Kingdom48.7%20.0%
🇯🇵 Japan40.1%17.3%
🇰🇷 South Korea34.6%16.8%
🇦🇺 Australia41.2%15.9%
🇪🇸 Spain49.3%14.3%
🇩🇪 Germany58.0%10.4%
🇫🇷 France52.1%7.5%
🇮🇳 India24.5%5.6%
Average42.5%15.5%

China had the highest portion of e-book lovers—an estimated 24.4% of its population purchased an e-book in 2020, which is more than 8 percentage points higher than the average across the whole list.

On the other end of the spectrum, e-books are least popular in India, where an estimated 5.6% of the country’s population purchased an e-book in 2020. Keep in mind, the country has a lower percentage of book purchasers in general.

Why Print Has Prevailed

Why are print books still more popular than e-books? There are many theories. One study suggests that readers retain information better from a print book versus an e-book, while other consumer surveys found that e-books haven’t yet managed to fully simulate the tactile experience of a print book.

However, while e-books might not eradicate print books entirely, the market for digital books is expected to grow in the near future. By 2025, global revenue from e-books could reach $18.4 billion, with 1.2 billion users across the globe.

Where does this data come from?

Source: Statista

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