Rising colleges costs and a student debt crisis, deepening the national divide

Today, the promise of American higher education is at risk. The country’s public institutions – once envisioned as affordable, accessible engines of social economic mobility – enroll the majority of college students. But students face mounting hurdles, as tuition and fees at public universities have increased more than three times the rate of inflation in the last 30 years. Financial aid has not kept up, as the out of pocket costs for full-time students at four-year public universities doubled over the last two decades.

the result

An explosion in higher education debt, now over $1.4 trillion, held by over 44 million Americans.

Today’s student debt crisis, which surpasses combined outstanding credit card debt, has become a hinderance to graduates’ economic mobility.


Less likely to buy a home

(NY Fed, 2013)

Less likely to start a new business

(Philadelphia Fed, 2015)

More likely to live with their parents

(Fed’s Board of Governors, 2015)

Less likely to save for their retirements

(Brookings, 2014)

More likely to have negative household wealth

(Armantier, 2016)

More likely to have an inferior credit rating score

(NY Fed, 2013)

Who is responsible?

Costs at state colleges and universities will continue to grow unless state policymakers and boards of trustees, charged with oversight of public higher education, begin to think and act differently. Behind each and every tuition and fee increase there lies a vote by a public board - often unanimous. Students and families, however, rarely have a seat at the policymaking table.

State Policies

Learn about commonsense policies to improve affordability, accountability and transparency at public universities.


State Stats

Explore college affordability data and policies in your state.