There is a lot of talk in the media about tuition inflation. On a recent edition of ABC World News, Diane Sawyer reported on 10/19/2011 that the cost of a college education is up 900 percent in the past 30 years. (An article by Larry Doyle for Business Insider offers an interesting comparison between escalating college costs and student debt with the subprime mortgage crisis, and recent data show that college tuition continues to outpace the Consumer Price Index.) The ABC News story is just another in a long stream of sound bites that students, prospective students, parents, and graduates hear that may make them question the value of their educations and the investment of tuition dollars.
The 2011 national data from the Student Satisfaction Inventory show that fewer than half of students at four-year private institutions (43 percent) are satisfied or very satisfied with their tuition being a worthwhile investment. The percentage is slightly better at four-year public institutions with 51 percent of students indicating that they are satisfied or very satisfied with this item. Students at career and private schools (which have been under a lot of scrutiny lately) report a 57 percent satisfaction score on the value of their tuition. Not surprisingly, community college students, who are usually paying the least amount per credit hour, report the highest satisfaction with their tuition investment, with 68 percent of students satisfied or very satisfied. This chart provides a visual of these scores: