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Higher education has become increasingly unaffordable for many communities.

Why has inflation become a major concern in higher education?

Between 1980 and 2020, the average price of tuition, fees, room and board for an undergraduate degree increased 169%

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Journalism Lab on Higher Education

The president of the University of North Dakota expressed today his concern about the effects of inflation on higher education.

UND President Andrew Armacost said inflation could pose a threat to the fair compensation of hard-working faculty and staff.

"Whether it's the cost of delivering education, or the pressures that faculty and staff members are seeing in the community with an increase in prices -this is something we have to examine very carefully. How do we make sure the compensation that our valuable employees get compensated for the hard work they do," said Armacost.

College tuition inflation

Inflation also directly affects the students at college. While there is no study that offers a specific reason for the rise in college tuition over the years, the reality is that higher education has become increasingly unaffordable for many communities. 

"The opportunity cost of going to college for low-income, first-gen Latino students, and especially for men of color, is much more acute right now with inflation, low unemployment and increasing costs of going to college," said Deborah Santiago, CEO of Excelencia in Education during an interview with Inside Higher Ed. 

Between 1980 and 2020, the average price of tuition, fees, room and board for an undergraduate degree increased 169%, according to a recent report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

According to Forbes, the cost to attend college full-time by 1980 was $10,231 annually (including tuition, fees, room and board). By 2019-2020, the total price increased to $28,775, reflecting a 180% increase. 

The increase in the cost of tuition is higher in private institutions than in public institutions. To give an example, a full-time student at a private university paid $48,965 in tuition between 2019-2020, compared to $21,035 at a public university. 

Although college prices have stabilized for now, they remain unaffordable for many students. More than half of bachelor's degree students from public or private four-year colleges graduated with debt in 2020, and the average debt load was $28,400, according to the College Board. 

"We do think institutions need to be more cognizant of this and helping to meet students where they are at by offering learning-and-earning opportunities or more clear pathways to the workforce," concluded Santiago. 

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