Category Archives: chart of the week

Chart: The Most Expensive College Dorms in Each State

Chart: The Most Expensive College Dorms in Each State

Most expensive room & board by state

Elsewhere we’ve detailed the full-cost breakdown students face when going to college. The big lesson was to not ignore the fact that we must also consider the financial impact of room, board, books, and transportation when making plans. After I presented that chart I was tempted to provide you with a series of tips on how to save money on such things. But I realized to do so at this point in this blog’s lifespan would send the wrong message.

This chart unwittingly proves this point. Here we have an infographic and state-by-state breakdown compiled by of the most expensive dorms in each state (note, however, this chart and figures refer to room and food, meaning the combined cost of dorms and meal plans).

While fun and informative, this chart serves as a great object lesson to not get too mired down in dealing with such expenses.  Yes, we need to consider them when pre-planning our annual allocations of resources. But… Continue reading Chart: The Most Expensive College Dorms in Each State

Soaring Textbook Prices

Soaring Textbook Prices

Textbook Prices

Every fall students all over the country will flock to their respective colleges, enroll in courses, pick up their syllabi, walk over the bookstore and freak out at the prices of the required textbooks. No kids, those aren’t typos. Your physics textbook really does run $350 and yes, you are paying more than when you started just four years ago.

This week’s chart, brought to us by the American Enterprise Institute, shows the rapid rise in textbook costs relative to inflation and, super bonus, to books in general. Textbook costs have risen substantially faster than general inflation, home prices, and medical care. And this in a world where Amazon regularly slashes the prices of popular titles… traditional publishing books have actually decreased in price over the years.

As the AEI full article points out, with average textbook prices for some disciplines in the range of $250 and with several books required each semester, this can add thousands and thousands of dollars to the cost of one’s college tally. Nobody will deny that students are getting ripped off, but what to do about it? How do we work these costs into our plans? Can these costs be combatted? We have given you some great tips, which you can find by clicking “books” in the categories column to your right.


Chart: The Costs of Excess Credits

Chart: The Costs of Excess Credits

Cost of Extra School

cost of extra school II

(Click on either chart above to go to its source article)

These charts come to us courtesy of articles by Danielle Douglas-Gabriel of the Washington Post and Melissa Korn of the Wall Street Journal. Both provide us some detail on the costs associated with taking more courses than necessary for the completion of a degree. We get two today because this has been a public policy hot topic of late with states looking to trim their higher education budgets. After all, it costs money to offer classes, and when a student at a state school continues to rack up credit hours beyond graduation requirements it affects the bottom line of both. Continue reading Chart: The Costs of Excess Credits

Chart: The Savings of Dual Enrollment

Chart: The Savings of Dual Enrollment

Dual Enrollment Savings (Ohio)

This time of year emails from one my Google Alerts, set to the keywords “college degree,” flood my inbox with stories from local papers around the country celebrating students who have not only graduated high school, but done so with junior college credits and even in some cases full-blown degrees under their belts. These students have participated in dual enrollment programs, wherein high schools and colleges collaborate to offer college courses to high school students which then earns them credits at both institutions.

While the articles usually celebrate the premature academic achievement and head start on college, the potential tuition savings of the arrangement don’t receive much, if any, mention. However, this can be a critical savings strategy for the students willing to step to it. Usually dually enrolled high schoolers get to earn these college credits at severely discounted or completely waived tuition rates. Kids who enroll in my local JuCo via its dual enrollment program get to take college coursework for free, and this is not uncommon.

This chart, brought to us by Charlie Boss of the Columbus Dispatch, explores the potential savings earned by recent high school graduates in Columbus, Ohio, thanks to dual enrollment’s benefits. Note the number of students per high school and divide that into the potential amount saved at both Ohio public and private colleges. It is not at all uncommon for these students to save tens of thousands of dollars for spending their high school time in a college classroom.

Certainly, in addition to the more popular A.P. credits high school students should look into local dual enrollment programs. In doing so they have the potential to not only get a head start on college and career, but also several credit hours’ worth of tuition for free. For another exploration of dual enrollment’s ins and outs stay tuned for my next Tip of the Week.

Chart: Social Mobility

Chart: Social Mobility

Upward mobility top and bottom 10

This week’s chart comes from rankings compiled by the Social Mobility Index (SMI) and put into this handy format by Rick Newman in an article for Yahoo Finance.

I appreciate what SMI has done here. I’ve seen tons of rankings put out by the various sources of colleges on all sorts of merits, including all around best colleges, top party schools and stone cold sober schools, best colleges for nature lovers, etc, etc. We must typically take these with a grain of salt because “best” is a subjective credential and the criterion can be misleading for students of other opinions. They also tend to not place all that much emphasis on the sorts of practical financial consequences their students must face once in the workaday world.

However, this ranking system, which incorporates metrics of former students’ financial health, is geared to “highlight the schools that do the best job of helping disadvantaged students graduate with the ability to start a career free of crushing levels of debt.” We’re getting warmer…

Continue reading Chart: Social Mobility

Chart: Low Income + Expensive Stated Tuition ≠ Unaffordable Education

Chart: Low Income + Expensive Stated Tuition ≠ Unaffordable Education

Actual Cost Cropped Pic

  (Chart above has been cropped for space reasons. Click on it for the full version)


This chart comes to us courtesy of Jeff Guo of the Washington Post, who included it in his short article about how poorer students get caught in the trap of not applying for good, cheap schools because they seem expensive on the surface. Indeed, the gap between actual post-aid tuition costs and sticker price can be significant, particularly at private schools whose endowments provide flexibility to tier their prices and/or negotiate individually. As Mr. Guo points out, the tuition for poorer household students borders on zero at many schools notorious for exclusivity and expense. College finance experts have written on this time and time again but this week’s chart provides an excellent visual prompt to not accept a stated tuition at face value.

The upshot: in your quest to identify schools that fit your needs and your pocketbook, don’t out of hand overlook those schools which seem expensive but might offer good financial aid packages. As you filter schools for affordability be sure not to rely solely on sticker prices. Instead determine what your costs at an institution will look like, whether through aid-adjusted aggregate data or more personalized calculators.


Chart: The Disappearing Male

disappearing male


Chart: The Disappearing Male

This selection comes to us from a Forbes article by the venerable Richard Vedder titled “The Disappearing Male on College Campuses.” Today’s chart shows that there has been a consistent, downward trend of male participation in college for several decades now. As professor Vedder points out, this is both a function of declining male enrollments on the front end and a lopsided tendency to drop out early on the back end.

While the policy wonks and sociologists worry about the causes (though I certainly have my own theories), affordologists must contend with the effects. Today let’s not get caught up in the big picture of “why is this happening?” or “what should we do about this?” (political) but “why should I care?” and “what should I do about this?” (practical).

Continue reading Chart: The Disappearing Male

Chart: The Value of a Buck by State

Chart: The Value of a Buck by State

How much $1 worth in each state

While on the surface this chart selection seems to have nothing to do with college, it highlights a very important factor in college and career affordability. Thanks to an analysis conducted by the Tax Foundation we get to see the relative value of a dollar state-by-state (they also offer a more detailed breakdown here). Once we grasp the concept of differing amounts of purchasing power between regions we get a little insight into our ultimate prospects for affordable endeavors.

I stumbled into this phenomenon in the years surrounding my college experience. I came from a retirement mecca in Arizona but went to college in a region of Ohio where seemingly everything -groceries, gas, vehicles, housing, services – could be had for less. While there I could convert my minimum wage campus employment into cheap sustenance from Aldi and entertainment from the dollar theater. After graduation I returned to Arizona eke by by on my $8/hour wages before wising up and scampering back to rural Ohio where the same pay freed up enough money to consistently pay extra on my student loans.

Keep this in mind as you explore schools and jobs. If you have two relatively similar schools of relatively similar expense, you may want to tip your interest in favor of a school in a region where a dollar buys you more. You will have to, after all, continually purchase items off campus. And when entertaining job offers don’t always bite for the higher paying gig, particularly if that would land you in a region of greater expense.

In fact, I often advise youth from my area to move out of town to get their start in the South or the Midwest where it’s much easier to find cheap starter homes and  hoopties to tide them over until they have enough net worth to make choices based on wants over needs. I’m sure glad I did, even if by happy accident.


Chart: Lowest Out of State Tuitions

Chart: Lowest Out of State Tuitions

Lowest OOS Tuition


This chart comes to us via an article in US News and World Report by Delece Smith-Barrow. She has compiled a list of the state schools that charge the least tuition to non-resident students.

Many students, particularly from states like Arizona with a dearth of four-year state schools, still balk at the idea of traveling out of state due to the often large increases in cost for simply crossing a border or two. Then the choice seems fairly binary: go cheaply to an in-state school or break the bank going to a private or out-of-state one. However, as Ms. Smith-Barrow has shown us, this is a false dichotomy.

If one has a desire to attend school out of state (as I certainly did) then one needn’t assume one will pay much higher prices for the privilege. We have 2,500+ four-year degree-conferring institutions in these United States and if you learn nothing else from these pages, learn this: in search of a good, affordable education open up your mental boundaries and do a little exploring. You’ll be all the wiser, and perhaps all the richer, for it.


Chart: The Growing Trend of Tuition Discounts

Chart: The Growing Trend of Tuition Discounts


tuition discounting


Here we get some insight into a prevalent, confusing, and frustrating, aspect of the college experience: the fact that nobody knows what they will pay for any given school. While schools will publish tuition rates and total costs, if you pull ten random students from any random college (particularly the private ones) to ask what they actually pay you’ll end up with ten different answers.

As an article and accompanying chart by Kellie Woodhouse of Inside Higher Ed show, the average tuition discount now runs a full 48% for incoming freshmen and 41.6% overall. The article also states that a full 77% of current students currently receive a discount. In other words, we’re approaching the point where three-quarters of students pay an average of nearly half of the published tuition at their schools.

Why is this done? Why does the actual price paid differ so widely from the published price? The answer is twofold: 1) the higher published price allows colleges to charge more whenever they can get away with it and 2) discounts act as a discriminatory admissions tool. The college might only “need” to charge $25,000 per student, but if it has a certain number of students able to pay a higher tuition then they feel that to “only” charge that amount leaves money on the table. Also, as a college seeks to round out its student body with students of a certain variety (admissions counselors seek to engineer their demographic diversity along economic, racial, geographic, study area, and other lines) it will offer discounts to entice desired students to join the mix.

The second of these reasons engenders much controversy. After all, if a landlord posted rent at $X but put out the word that he would take half that amount from tenants of a certain “desirable” variety he would soon be sued for discrimination. But in the world of college this practice has become very much the norm. Right or wrong, it is what it is.

That said, this understanding should shift the behavior of those prospective students looking to get a good deal. For one, it literally pays to go where you’re wanted, as we’ve explored previously. For two, I always encourage students to explore schools primarily for other reasons beyond price, given the wide prevalence of discounting. In short, don’t rule out schools that seem out of reach if they’re an otherwise good fit (We’ll discuss this idea further in our next Tip of the Week).

In the meantime, be discouraged enough by tuition increases to take action to alleviate the pain, but encouraged that not all is at it seems on that front.