Median Incomes v. Average College Tuition Rates, 1971-2016


  • In 1971 the tuition, fees, room, and board per year for a public 4-year college was $8,734 in Dec. 2017 dollars ($1,410 unadjusted). By 2016 the cost had risen to $20,967 per year in Dec. 2017 dollars ($20,150 unadjusted), a 140.1% increase.

  • The median income in 1971 for men was $42,757 in Dec. 2017 dollars ($6,903 unadjusted) and for women was $14,915 in Dec. 2017 dollars ($2,408 unadjusted), making public college costs 20.4% of men’s median income and 73.7% of women’s median income per year.

  • In 2016, the median income for men was $40445 in Dec. 2017 dollars ($38,869 unadjusted) and $25,901 in Dec. 2017 dollars ($24,892 unadjusted) for women, making public college costs 51.8% of men’s median income and 80.9% of women’s median income per year.

  • The average yearly cost of 4-year private nonprofit colleges was higher than women’s median yearly incomes for every year between 1971 and 2016, ranging from 107.6% (1977) to 184.6% (2015) of a woman's annual income.

  • In 2016, the average cost of a 4-year public college ($20,150 unadjusted) was $25,220 less than that of a private nonprofit 4-year college ($45,370 unadjusted).

Not Adjusted for Inflation
Median Annual Income Average Annual Tuition, Fees, Room, & Board
Year Men Women 4-Year Private
Nonprofit Colleges
& Universities
4-Year Public
Colleges &
Universities
1971 $6,903 $2,408 $2,930 $1,410

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

42.4% 20.4%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

121.7% 58.6%
1972 $7,450 $2,599 $3,090 $1,550

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

41.5% 20.8%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

118.9% 59.6%
1973 $8,056 $2,796 $3,220 $1,600

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

40.0% 19.9%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

115.2% 57.2%
1974 $8,452 $3,082 $3,420 $1,650

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

40.5% 19.5%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

111.0% 53.5%
1975 $8,053 $3,385 $3,680 $1,780

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

45.7% 22.1%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

108.7% 52.6%
1976 $9,426 $3,576 $3,980 $1,940

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

42.2% 20.6%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

111.3% 54.3%
1977 $10,123 $3,941 $4,240 $2,040

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

41.8% 20.2%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

107.6% 51.8%
1978 $10,935 $4,068 $4,610 $2,150

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

42.2% 19.7%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

113.3% 52.9%
1979 $11,779 $4,352 $5,010 $2,330

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

42.5% 19.8%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

115.1% 53.5%
Not Adjusted for Inflation
Median Annual Income Average Annual Tuition, Fees, Room, & Board
Year Men Women 4-Year Private
Nonprofit Colleges
& Universities
4-Year Public
Colleges &
Universities
1980 $12,530 $4,920 $5,590 $2,550

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

44.6% 20.4%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

113.6% 51.8%
1981 $13,473 $5,458 $6,330 $2,870

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

47.0% 21.3%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

116.0% 52.6%
1982 $13,950 $5,887 $7,130 $3,200

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

51.1% 22.9%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

121.1% 54.4%
1983 $14,631 $6,319 $7,760 $3,430

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

53.0% 23.4%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

122.8% 54.3%
1984 $15,600 $6,868 $8,450 $3,680

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

54.2% 23.6%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

123.0% 53.6%
1985 $16,311 $7,217 $8,900 $3,860

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

54.6% 23.7%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

123.3% 53.5%
1986 $17,114 $7,610 $9,850 $4,050

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

57.6% 23.7%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

118.7% 48.8%
1987 $17,786 $8,295 $10,460 $4,200

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

58.8% 23.6%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

126.1% 50.6%
1988 $18,908 $8,884 $11,660 $4,460

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

61.7% 23.6%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

131.2% 50.2%
1989 $19,893 $9,624 $12,560 $4,720

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

63.1% 23.7%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

130.5% 49.0%
Not Adjusted for Inflation
Median Annual Income Average Annual Tuition, Fees, Room, & Board
Year Men Women 4-Year Private
Nonprofit Colleges
& Universities
4-Year Public
Colleges &
Universities
1990 $20,293 $10,070 $13,480 $5,070

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

66.4% 25.0%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

133.9% 50.3%
1991 $20,469 $10,476 $14,190 $5,450

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

69.3% 26.6%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

135.5% 52.0%
1992 $20,455 $10,714 $15,030 $5,830

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

73.5% 28.5%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

140.3% 54.4%
1993 $21,102 $11,046 $15,800 $6,210

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

74.9% 29.4%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

143.0% 56.2%
1994 $21,720 $11,466 $16,500 $6,620

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

76.0% 30.5%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

143.9% 57.7%
1995 $22,562 $12,130 $17,380 $6,740

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

77.0% 28.9%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

143.3% 55.6%
1996 $23,834 $12,815 $18,360 $7,140

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

77.0% 30.0%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

143.3% 55.7%
1997 $25,212 $13,703 $19,360 $7,470

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

76.8% 29.6%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

141.3% 54.5%
1998 $26,492 $14,430 $20,460 $7,770

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

77.2% 29.3%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

141.8% 53.8%
1999 $27,293 $15,304 $21,480 $8,080

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

78.7% 29.6%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

140.4% 52.8%
Not Adjusted for Inflation
Median Annual Income Average Annual Tuition, Fees, Room, & Board
Year Men Women 4-Year Private
Nonprofit Colleges
& Universities
4-Year Public
Colleges &
Universities
2000 $28,343 $16,079 $22,240 $8,440

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

78.5% 29.8%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

138.3% 52.5%
2001 $29,101 $16,614 $23,860 $9,030

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

82.0% 31.0%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

143.6% 54.4%
2002 $29,238 $16,812 $24,870 $9,670

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

85.1% 33.1%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

147.9% 57.5%
2003 $29,931 $17,259 $26,060 $10,530

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

87.1% 35.2%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

151.0% 61.0%
2004 $30,516 $17,667 $27,470 $11,380

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

90.0% 37.3%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

155.5% 64.4%
2005 $31,275 $18,576 $28,740 $12,120

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

91.9% 38.8%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

154.7% 65.2%
2006 $32,265 $20,014 $30,500 $12,840

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

94.5% 39.8%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

152.4% 64.2%
2007 $33,196 $20,922 $31,990 $13,560

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

96.4% 40.8%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

152.9% 64.8%
2008 $33,161 $20,867 $33,800 $14,370

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

101.9% 43.3%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

162.0% 68.9%
2009 $32,184 $20,957 $35,070 $15,240

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

109.0% 47.4%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

167.3% 72.7%
Not Adjusted for Inflation
Median Annual Income Average Annual Tuition, Fees, Room, & Board
Year Men Women 4-Year Private
Nonprofit Colleges
& Universities
4-Year Public
Colleges &
Universities
2010 $32,205 $20,775 $36,470 $16,180

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

113.2% 50.2%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

145.5% 77.9%
2011 $32,986 $21,102 $37,970 $17,160

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

115.1% 52.0%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

179.9% 81.3%
2012 $33,904 $21,520 $39,450 $17,820

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

116.4% 52.6%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

183.3% 82.8%
2013 $35,228 / $35,630 * $22,063 / 22,126 * $40,960 $18,380

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

116.3% / 115.0% 52.2% / 51.6%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

185.7% / 185.1% 83.3% / 83.1%

*The Census Bureau questionnaire was revised in 2013, resulting in two questionnaires and two sets of results.

2014 $36,302 $22,240 $42,450 $18,930

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

116.9% 52.1%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

190.9% %85.1
2015 $37,138 $23,769 $43,880 $19,570

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

118.2% 52.7%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

184.6% 82.3%
2016 $38,869 $24,892 $45,370 $20,150

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Men

116.7% 51.8%

College Costs as % of Annual Income: Women

182.3% 80.9%
Year Men Women 4-Year Private
Nonprofit Colleges
& Universities
4-Year Public
Colleges &
Universities
Median Annual Income Average Annual Tuition, Fees, Room, & Board
Not Adjusted for Inflation

Sources:

College Board, "Tuition and Fee and Room and Board Charges over Time," collegeboard.org (accessed Nov. 9, 2017)
US Census Bureau, "Historical Income Tables: People," census.gov, Aug. 10, 2017