Why college costs soared as more students enrolled

Today’s college students and recent alumni often look wistfully to the 1960s.

By today’s standards, the price of a college education at the time was amazingly low. A student applying to a state university that charged no tuition had total annual expenses ranging from $1,100 to $1,500, or the equivalent today of $9,460 to $12,900.

By contrast, today’s state university students typically spend $30,000 per year on tuition and expenses. Even at elite private colleges, tuition in 1963 was a mere $1,760 — the equivalent today of $14,500 for tuition. That pales in comparison to what actual students pay in 2018: about $55,000 to $60,000 per year for an Ivy League undergraduate.

But the situation for students looking to go to college in the 1960s wasn’t all good. While the decade witnessed an explosion in the number of young Americans who were able to go to college — the percentage of high school graduates continuing to a college education increased from about 25 percent to 50 percent — higher education still had accessibility issues.

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