There has been a lot of talk recently about how the cost of college has risen faster than the cost of living and/or the income level. Seeing that my son starts college soon, it worried me quite a bit. Then I wondered, how does the inflation of college costs compare to the inflation of the cost of milk.
In 1990 the median income was just over $30,000 and the cost of milk was $2.79. The average cost of a college education (public and private) was $10,500.
With that income of $30,000, you could purchase 10,752 gallons of milk. It would take 3,854 of those gallons of milk to pay for college. In other words a year of college cost roughly 36% of the median income.
So let’s compare that to 2011 numbers.
The median income today is about $49,000 and the cost of milk is $3.78. The average cost of a college education is $17,500.
With that income of $49,000 you can buy 12,962 gallons of milk. That’s a lot more milk. It would take 4,629 of those gallos of milk to pay for college. Interestingly enough, it would still take $36% of your milk, or your money to pay for college.
So based on my numbers, it took 36% of the median income to pay for college in 1990, around the time I graduated, and it will take about the same percentage to pay for my son to go to college. So what’s the big fuss?
The problem is that current distrbution of income. The rich are now super rich, and the middle class is sliding into poverty. This is why college is becoming out of reach for many. There are a lot fewer families reaching that “median” income. If you are at or above median income, you are no more affected than your counterpart was 20 or so years ago. But if you are the average family, college prospects appear dim.
For more info:
Median Household income charts
Middle Class Areas Shrink as Income Gap Grows