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Is college actually getting cheaper?

Founder/Senior Editor
B.A., M.Div.
Jeremy Alder has spent over a decade researching and writing about higher education to provided students with the information they need to achieve their goals. He has significant personal experience with career transitions, working as a freelance writer and editor, non-profit director, community organizer, preacher, teacher, retail manager, and carpenter prior to founding College Consensus. Homeschooled from the second grade, Jeremy is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin (B.A., Philosophy) and Duke University Divinity School (M.Div.). He currently lives in North Carolina with his wife, five kids, and a Labradoodle named Hank.

The surprising answer according to a recent report from The College Board is, Yes!

How to pay for college is the most pressing question on the minds of most prospective students and their families. The narrative for the past several years is that the costs of college keeps going up. But new data suggests that when inflation and financial aid is taken into consideration, the total cost of a college education has actually gone down since 2012-2013.

Forbes has a good overview of the study and how it contradicts the assumption that college is only getting more expensive and is no longer a good investment. The truth is, college remains a great investment for the vast majority of students.

Deciding whether college is a good investment for you personally can be a bit like navigating through a maze. It really depends on your unique situation, aspirations, and the road you want to take.

Imagine your career as a garden. Some plants thrive in certain soils, while others need a different kind of nurturing. Similarly, certain professions and industries still highly value that college diploma—it’s like the nutrient-rich soil that helps your career bloom. If your dream job has a “degree required” sign on the door, then college might be your golden ticket.

But, it’s important to acknowledge the shifting winds. The job market isn’t what it used to be, and alternative paths are cropping up like wildflowers. Some folks are finding success through vocational training, online courses, or other unconventional routes. It’s like choosing a different garden with a different set of tools.

Then there’s the financial rain cloud. Although college may not be as pricey as we’ve been led to believe, after inflation and student aid is take into account, student loans can cast a long shadow. You need to weigh the potential future earnings against the upfront investment, considering whether the juice is worth the squeeze.

College, of course, is more than just a degree factory. It’s a garden of knowledge and skills. You’re not just planting the seeds of information; you’re cultivating critical thinking, problem-solving, and networking skills. These can be the sturdy branches that help your career tree weather different seasons.

In the end, it’s about knowing yourself and your goals. Take a stroll through the garden of possibilities, consider the lay of the land, and decide whether college is the landscape that aligns with your vision for the future.

Best of luck to you!