Affordability of College

Affordability of College

The price of college is often a barrier to postsecondary educational attainment. Misconceptions regarding the actual costs of college intensify the issue. In response to a national survey, 57 percent of participants who never enrolled in postsecondary education cited cost as the reason. When asked to estimate the cost of attending a community college, 40 percent overestimated the amount by more than $2,500 and 27 percent were unable to provide any estimate.1 The federal Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) program is working to increase Iowa students’ understanding of college costs and options for financial aid.

Decreased Student Aid and Rising Tuition

Since 1999, rising tuition at Iowa colleges and universities has outpaced increases in household median income, with tuition at Regent Universities growing the fastest. From 2006 to 2012, the tuition rate at private, for-profit institutions rose by 36 percent but has since declined as enrollment has fallen.2

Between 2008 and 2013, during the economic recession, state appropriations to Iowa’s scholarships and grants decreased by 16 percent.3 Nationally, state appropriations to higher education dropped by 20 percent in this time period.4 Even with the economic recovery, appropriations to scholarships and grants remain lower than before the recession.

Net Cost of College

The actual cost students pay for college is typically less than the published cost when scholarships and grants are taken into account. The average net cost is the total cost of attendance (including tuition, books, fees, room and board) minus the average grants awarded. Private, not-for-profit colleges have the highest published tuitions and net costs among the sectors.

The percentage of the Iowa median income required to pay college or university tuition (net cost) is lowest for community college students (20 percent) and highest for private, not-for-profit college students (39 percent).5

1)     Kelly, A. P. (2015). High Costs, Uncertain Benefits. Center on Higher Education Reform, American Enterprise Institute.
2)     Iowa College Student Aid Commission, College Costs and Household Income in Iowa: 1987-88 through 2014-15.
3)     Iowa College Student Aid Commission, Historical State Appropriates Summary.
4)     American Academy of Arts & Sciences. (2015). Public Research Universities: Changes in State Funding.
5)     U.S. Department of Education. Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics.
6)     Iowa College Student Aid Commission. Historical Appropriations Report.

Printed from the Iowa College Student Aid Commission website on May 24, 2018 at 11:45pm.