The narrowing of access to college is being driven as much by higher-than-inflation increases in on-campus food, housing, and other costs as it is by rising tuition and fees, a new study contends.
The study, by the Urban Institute, shows that prices universities and colleges charge for room and board make up “a large proportion of the increase in the cost” of both two- and four-year institutions.
Room and board charges at four-year colleges have outpaced inflation, doubling since 1980 even after being adjusted for inflation. The price of living in a dorm is now almost the same as it is to live in an off-campus apartment.
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The cost of room and board has doubled between 1980 and 2014 at public and private four-year colleges, when adjusted for inflation, and is up by more than 40 percent at community colleges.
Public four-year colleges and universities now charge an average $9,798 a year for room and board.
While increases during that time in tuition and fees have been at least partly covered by rises in financial aid, the rising cost of room and board has not, the report shows.
It calculates that, if living costs had increased at only the rate of inflation since 1990, the cost of four years in college would be $17,316 less at public and $15,720 less at private colleges and universities than it is now.
Living on campus was once a way for students to save money. In 2003, paying for a dorm cost students 29 percent less than it did to live off campus. Now the average dorm charge is only 7 percent cheaper.