Majority of US students ‘overspend’ on university

Report finds that the average undergraduate pays twice the amount recommended by an affordability benchmark 

April 25, 2017
Piggy bank wearing mortar board (tuition fees)

More than two-thirds of US undergraduates pay more for university than they should be able to afford, according to a recent report.

The study from three US thinktanks compared 2012 federal data on the tuition fees and other expenses spent by full-time university students nationwide with an affordability benchmark created in 2015.

The benchmark, dubbed “Rule of 10” and created by the Lumina Foundation, which aims to increase the proportion of Americans with post-secondary qualifications, says students and families should pay no more for college than the savings they can accumulate by setting aside 10 per cent of their discretionary income for 10 years, along with the additional income students earn from working 10 hours per week while enrolled.

For example, an average student could afford to pay $35,135 (£27,600), based on a $23,857 contribution from savings and $11,277 in student wages earned during college.

But the findings of the report suggest that 68 per cent of undergraduates overpaid; on average students paid twice the amount indicated by the benchmark, often with the help of loans and by working an average of 16 hours each week during university.

The study, The Affordability Conundrum: Value, Price and Choice in Higher Education from the Manhattan Institute, New America, and American Enterprise Institute, found that the average student takes on $16,498 in debt over the course of their degree, which covers about 30 per cent of overall college costs.

It added that the average net cost of tuition and fees for one year of study at a four-year public university was $3,770 in 2015 – up nearly 30 per cent from a decade earlier.

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Worried man wiping forehead
Two academics explain how to beat some of the typical anxieties associated with a doctoral degree

Felipe Fernández-Armesto takes issue with a claim that the EU has been playing the sovereignty card in Brexit negotiations

John McEnroe arguing with umpire. Tennis

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman explain how to negotiate your annual performance and development review

Man throwing axes

UCU attacks plans to cut 171 posts, but university denies Brexit 'the reason'

looking through a gap

University appeals ICO notice to publish report on refusal to take part in league tables