The study gives a failing grade for college affordability to every state but California, which received a C because of the relatively low cost of its community colleges. Researchers said the percentage of an average family’s income needed to pay for a public four-year college has risen from 20 to 28 percent, after financial aid. For community colleges, the burden has risen from nearly 20 percent to nearly 25 percent.
Since the early 1980s, college tuition and fees have jumped nearly 440 percent, far more than health-care, food, housing and transportation costs. The median family income rose less than 150 percent.
Looking at various measures, including academic preparation in high school, high school graduation rates, college enrollment and cost, researchers concluded that although the United States has made modest gains in some areas, many other countries have been far more aggressive about increasing the proportion of students finishing two- and four-year schools.
At nearly 40 percent, the United States is second only to Canada in the percentage of adults 35 to 64 with an associate’s degree or higher, a result of efforts that include the G.I. Bill enacted after World War II. But the United States is 10th in the world in the percentage of adults 25 to 34 who have such degrees.