Report: Out-of-pocket college expenses increased despite more grant and loan aid from 2000 to 2012

Washington, D.C. — Despite an increase in grant and loan aid, out-of-pocket college expenses increased for full-time students in public and private nonprofit institutions from 2000 to 2012, according to a data brief by researchers at RTI International. 

“College expenses are a major concern for many students and families,” said Laura Horn, director of the Center for Postsecondary Education at RTI and co-author of the report. “It can be very complicated to understand how much students and their families must pay for college, so we narrowed it down to out-of-pocket expenses – what they pay after subtracting grants, loans and all other aid—and how those expenses changed over time.”

The report used data from a nationally representative sample survey by the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study to find the average out-of-pocket net price and total price for full-time undergraduates in college, including private nonprofit, for-profit, and public two and four-year institutions. Out-of-pocket net price refers to the price college students pay after subtracting grants, loans, work-study, and other financial aid from the total price of attendance. 

From 2000 to 2012, the report found out-of-pocket net expenses increased for all full-time students except those enrolled in for-profit institutions. However, out-of-pocket expenses for students in for-profit institutions peaked in 2008 at $19,000, the highest in that year. In all other years, students in private nonprofit colleges paid the highest out-of-pocket expenses, which averaged $18,100 in 2012. Out-of-pocket expenses for students in public 4-year colleges averaged $11,800 in 2012, up from $10,800 in 2008. 

The report also compared how out-of-pocket net costs varied by income levels in 2012. Data showed, for example, that out-of-pocket expenses for students whose family income was in the lowest 25 percent paid an average of $8,500, which is less than the amount paid by those in the highest percentile. Students whose family income was in the highest 25 percent paid an average of $19,700 in expenses. 

The report was funded by the Postsecondary Education Analysis Resources within the Institute of Education Science for the National Center for Education Statistics.

 

Highlights

  • A report by researchers at RTI International found that out-of-pocket net expenses increased for full-time students from 2000 to 2012
  • The report also compared how out-of-pocket net costs varied by income levels