Economics Department


Date of this Version



Published by The Congress of the United States, Congressional Budget Office, January 2004.


Introduction and Summary The cost of four years of undergraduate education, including living expenses, now averages nearly $80,000 at public colleges and over $100,000 at many private institutions. Tuition and fees have risen steadily since 1980, fueling concern that college is becoming prohibitively expensive for many families. In two decades, tuition and fees at public universities more than doubled, from $1,883 (in 2001 dollars) in 1980 to $4,281 in 2001.
,br> A major component of higher education represents an investment, with the returns accruing in the form of greater productivity (and income) for future workers. As such, education is a sacrifice of current consumption in exchange for a future return. One would suppose such an investment would be made whenever the returns were expected to exceed the costs. However, the final decision to pursue higher education may also be influenced by nonpecuniary factors.

Included in

Economics Commons