Sep 26, 2023 - News

How college tuition in Denver compares to the U.S.

Median college tuition in the Denver metro area
Data: National Center for Education Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

The cost of going to college has increased faster than inflation for years.

Yes, but: The latest numbers show college costs have not spiked in real terms. For private four-year colleges, they've actually been falling.

What's happening: Don't look at soaring tuition rates. Instead, look at the amount students actually pay, which is invariably lower.

  • Colleges believe that inflated tuition costs combined with larger scholarships are more attractive than a lower tuition rate. So now many students get some form of financial aid.

By the numbers: Median college tuition paid increased less than 1% in the Denver metro area from the 2018-19 school year to the 2021-22 term, according to an analysis of National Center for Education Statistics that included 14 schools.

  • Tuition paid at seven public schools, including Metro State, CU Denver, School of Mines and community colleges, remained flat at $4,745 in that time period.
  • Private school tuition increased 12% to a median $21,615.

Of note: The analysis did not include the state's public flagship campus, University of Colorado Boulder.

Why it matters: The Biden administration's talk about forgiving billions in student debt is raising fears that schools will hike their rates on the notion that loans taken out to pay for higher tuition will be forgiven.

The big picture: The amount that Americans pay for college tuition is ultimately set according to the rules of supply and demand. Right now, thanks to overbuilding, a falling birth rate, and a decline in foreign students, there's significantly more supply than there is demand — and that means flat or declining prices.

  • Total freshmen enrollment in 2021 was 2,116,631 students, per the National Student Clearinghouse. That's down almost 20% from the 2,592,703 freshmen who enrolled in 2015.

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