One Simple Chart Illustrates The Absurdity Of College Cost Inflation

Tyler Durden's picture

The simple chart below from the American Enterprise Institute beautifully illustrates the absurd inflation of college tuition and textbooks over the past 20 years.  In real terms, the cost of college has effectively doubled over that time period.  Now what would cause such massive inflation?  Could it be our government tripping over itself to provide cheap student loans for children to spend on vacations, iPads and kegs (i.e. "college"; see "What Student Loans Are Used For: Vacations, iPads, Kegs, Entertainment").  Or, per the Daily Caller, perhaps the issue is administrative bloat at our institutions of higher education:

The exact reason prices have increased so much has been hotly debated, but one critical factor at most schools is administrative bloat. While student to faculty ratios have remained relatively steady over time, the number of administrators and other non-teaching staff has exploded at schools across the country.

But we don't want to stress out our young Millennials too much.  We're quite sure the debt burden associated with your $200,000 anthro degree will be socialized very soon. 

College Inflation

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Doubleguns's picture

Right up the a$$. 

Hopeless for Change's picture

Brainwashing death-spiral feeds itself.

erkme73's picture

GD it.  I clicked on the thumbnail.  Where are my titty pics!!! What clickbait.

J S Bach's picture

I can't wait for the implosion of all this.  Then we'll get to see the ivory-towered-turtle-neck-wearing-pointy-headed intellectual professors and their useless ilk squirm when their comfortable tenured safety nets start to unravel.

ebworthen's picture


An affordable "college education" once a reality now just another broken dream like:  career employment, affordable healthcare, production, responsibility, sound money, and the rule-of-law.  We are living a lie.  Smoke 'em while you got 'em.

Those Ivory Tower wankers are dumber than many who never graduated High School, they're just good at falling in line with the false narrative and kissing ass; a few good ones but I'd say 5% - the rest are .gov offal.

bamawatson's picture

smoke em when you aint got em

Vampyroteuthis infernalis's picture

Universities, big welfare states for the wealthy and clueless. 

Pairadimes's picture

The same thing has happened to health care. Both industries have become de facto extensions of the federal government - should any of us be surprised when they begin the mirror the bloated, dysfunctional, wealth-destroying bureacracies they are in thrall to?

jeff montanye's picture

and the textbooks!!!  

why aren't these dvd's, downloads, etc. and following software?  what a racket.

MisterMousePotato's picture

Housing up 50% in the last 20 years?!? Give me a fucking break.

Ex-Oligarch's picture

Nowadays textbooks routinely come accompanied by dvds, as well as download codes and passwords for online content.  This actually works against the secondhand market, because of the fragility of dvds and the expiration of the passwords.

Textbook publishers' longtime tactic of issuing "updated" editions (repaginated, slightly different content) to limit resale has accellerated to the point where new editions are coming out every couple years.

And with the expansion of print-on-demand technology, they've been experimenting with a new strategy: "customized" books printed for a particular course with a particular professor at a particular school for a particular semester, which virtually eliminates reuse.

A Nanny Moose's picture

I am consulting in IT security, at a Hospital. It is a five-star cluster fuck, iatrogenic, data loss incident waiting to happen. A bunch of big-data crunchers, peddling fear.

zeronetwork's picture

When china makes every thing we need, what the hack we need education for?

Stuck on Zero's picture

Universities: palaces for the elite.

Sokhmate's picture

Universititties: vagina fest, nothing more.

neilhorn's picture

Universititties: vagina fest

What is the date and location for vagina fest. I want to mark my calendar.

A Nanny Moose's picture Every day?

I mean...for the non-breeding carpet munching wyminz studies majors.

TheReplacement's picture

Disagree.  The wankers are dumb.  They are very good at using the government to plunder the productive class while enslaving our children for their own benefit.  While evil, this is not dumb.

Clock Crasher's picture

streamed live to YouTube too? 

I'd buy that for a dollar.  4sure!

RogerMud's picture

that thumbnail sums up the absurdity, pretty much all on its own.

RiverRoad's picture

Banks and higher educational institutions are in bed together:  the higher the tiuitions, the bigger the loans....  Raping and pillaging the young, making them debt serfs for life is a highly profitable business.

PositiveChanges's picture

Higher education is in bed with EVERY evil, b.s., fear-mongering, corporate-government sponsored lie/atrocity.

From Big Pharm, Big Ag, to "green" energy, it's all corporate sponsored murderous bullspit.


The Gun Is Good's picture

Agree. And financials push credit card applications on college students as soon as mommy and daddy drop em' off at school (I even saw that in college during the early 90s.). The one-two punch, baby!

And, in most cases, there are still no required high school or college classes on personal finance. Hmmmm.... I wonder why?

newmacroman's picture

The way she tugging on that G String...

Bush Fault

doctor10's picture

and all this is not "racketeering" because....????

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

With no incentive to hold down costs.....why would they?

To the moon Alice.

booboo's picture

I see a trend in living in a new car passing the time playing on your cell phone while the kids play with the toys on the new couch strapped to the trunk

divingengineer's picture

How can this show the price of a new car has not increased since 1996? It's doubled. I bought a new F-150 XL long bed extended cab for. $13,800 in 1994. It would be $30,000 now.

GeoffreyT's picture

It's called 'hedonics'.

See, a modern F-150 is about the size of a 1996 F-350... that's 200 whole extra "F"s.

Jokes aside, government started 'quality-adjusting' the goods that it uses in its CPI calculations after Mr Magoo Greenspan led a commission into the CPI in the late 80s.


If government still used the calculation methodology it was using then, reported inflation would be closer to the inflation we experience, which runs ~10% or thereabouts on basics, 5-6% on durables, -2% on electronics, and 4-5% on rent or equivalent - for an overall average approaching 8%.

Greenspan's commission was basically tasked with trying to find a justification for fudging CPI numbers, because government lackies understood two things:

(1) government pension beneficiaries wised up in the 1970s to the requirement for COLA (cost of living adjustments) and would not accept reducing COLA;

(2) CPI based COLA would bankrupt government entitlement programs because of aging populations ('longer tails', meaning more retirees per worker).


That's why the CPI includes hedonic adjustment; chain-lined indexing; and substitution effects (if pork gets expensive, people will eat hamburger... and so on until they're eating dog food).


The overall effect is to bias GDP upward by 1-2%, and to bias the GDP deflator (the general price level) downward by the same amount.

J J Pettigrew's picture

Correct.  Just like a 40 inch flat screen cost 1000 8 years it is 400.....and that is considered DEFLATION in the eyes of the government calculators....

but it is not, of course. It is merely technology advancement.

jewish_master's picture

defaltion or infaltion is context based. tv flat screen are old tech price is low. HMD are new tech price is high.  

these economic fuckers cant calculate a diffeerential functions

GeoffreyT's picture

Tell me about it... I spent $9k (in 1988 dollars - about $20k today) on a ~32" CRT behemoth that weighed as much as I do (105kg - 230lb). It had gigantic speakers in its cabinet.


In that same year, I bought

  • an NEC PowerMate I+ ... with a stonking 640kB of RAM; a 140MB HDD (the largest HDD available to consuemrs at the time); a 14" 'SuperVGA' colour screen, and Turbo C and Turbo Assembler thrown in!!! YAY!!! Ran at 12KHz if you knew the right hotkeys to press. A lazy $6K.
  • a TEAC 'component' hi-fi system - record player, TWIN cassette decks, CD-player, graphic fucking equaliser (DUDE!!!!), pre-amp, amp and 5KW speakers ($9K); and
  • a Sanyo Walkman-clone. Not just any clone, mind... this one had a 7-band graphic equaliser and X-BASS BOOST. Like a fucking BOSS.



Have you got any idea how powerful that was? So powerful: if it was a TV show then, it would be a meme now.

I could record tracks from one cassette to the other, then ...

take the fucking tape and play it in my Walkmanm with X-BASS BOOST.


Yes, motherfuckers. I am SO FUCKING OLD that in my day, 'defeating copy-protection' meant putting sticky-tape over the little tab holes in a cassette.


PhoQ's picture

Of course textbooks are more expensive. It's not like we have some sort of electronic means of disseminating this kind of information to thousands of people at almost no cost.

JuliaS's picture

And they keep revising math textbooks every year. You know how hard it is to keep up with all the changes in mathematics.

divingengineer's picture

Duh, NEW MATH, ever heard of it?

4+4=10 as long as you feel good about the answer.

WhoIsNumberOne's picture

You know you're an engineer when you laugh at the "octal" jokes (or make one).

froze25's picture

People's pay hasn't nearly kept up with that.

HowdyDoody's picture

People get paid? I thought they worked for nothing in order to maximize shareholder value of Big Corp.



In a bad news is good news world, wtf difference does it make?

One And Only's picture

The funniest thing about college as it pertains to wealth....

Of the top 10 richest people in America 50% have no formal college degree: 

Bill Gates

Larry Ellison

Jeff Bezos 

Mark Zuckerburg

Larry Paige and (Sergey Brin) 

So jump into massive amounts of student debt because it is absolutely necessary to change the world and have a good life. Because Einstein wasn't turned down a teaching job in his early years.

...or you could stop bitching about gender friendly toilets, minimum wage, black lives matter, social justice, and go out and change the fuckin world.

Kernighan's picture

They have ANOTHER thing in common.  They are active, and lifelong learners.  They started heavily throwing themselves into learning FAR before they even dabbled in college.  They continued to hunger for knowledge and to pound away at their skill sets despite having no nagging professors to wheedle them into it.  They needed no such coaxing.  If you would rather NOT study, then forget about becoming the next software company magnate.  It turns out software is tough to develop, and initially every hand is needed coding. . .

One And Only's picture

Yes, it's true!

You have to #1. discover what you love to do; #2. work HARD at what you love to do; #.3 do it. 

You don't NEED a college degree to do these things. 


The Jackal's picture

As an older German friend once told me; "My hobby is my job, so my job is my hobby".   They're words I learned to appreciate, adopt and pass on to my children.

stacking12321's picture

Why are you such a racist?

What does the fact that he's German have anything to do with the story?

JuliaS's picture

"My hobby is my job, so my job is my hobby" he said with a heavy German accent, while gathering gold teeth into a neat little pile.

One And Only's picture

Nothing, except the fact that you're racist

Ex-Oligarch's picture

Do you believe that cultural attitudes towards work are identical across different ethnic and national groups?


On the other hand, maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing if all those anthropology, sociology and ethnic studies professors found themselves unemployed.

Grin Bagel's picture

because there are societal traits that are just that, nothing else