College is becoming borderline mandatory for survival. Conscious parents begin saving for their children’s college funds as early as their first birthday. And as their children go older, tales of college times are usually told in a nostalgic tone.

Specifically, I remember my parents and grandparents saying, “back in my day – I paid half of that!” But was that really the case? Prices have definitely gone up for higher education – but by how much? I know our hairstyles and activities have changed for sure, but in this slideshow I explore how far education is truly costs us these days and how we can try and pay for it. The following slideshow is based off the tuition costs of UPenn – one of America’s oldest and most respected institutions of higher education. Remember the amounts are not inflation adjusted.

Click next below to find out how much it used to cost to go to college in the 1900, 1910’s, 20’s 30’s all the way up to today! All statistics are derived from


13. Yearly College Tuition Costs In 1900’s: $150

Seems, like not much, right? In reality, this number with formative costs for inflation was still not accessible for much of the working class.

Most college attendees were of the upper class because they were the only ones who would afford taking time off to study.

12. Yearly College Tuition Costs In 1910’s: $150

The good thing here is there was NO INCREASE in tuition costs! However, because most of the population were working-class employees in factories, college was still only a benefit of the upper class.

11. Yearly College Tuition Costs In 1920’s: $250

As universities have been around for 100 years at this point, more and more people are getting on board with the trend. This accounts for the increase in tuition, which is still lower than inflation.


10. Yearly College Tuition Costs In 1930’s: $400

An increase! The Roaring 20’s saw big influx in GDP,and accordingly of college admissions. Overall, college graduates comprised of 20% of the population during this time.

9. Yearly College Tuition Costs In 1940’s: $400

1939 marked the end of the Great Depression. Families were struggling to stay alive and keep food on the table, much less getting their children to college. This accounts for the lack of increase in tuition from 1930.

8. Yearly College Tuition Costs In 1950’s: $600

In 1944, the US passed the GI Bill. This created a huge influx in college admissions and graduates. The US has its fair share of veterans at this point, and they are cashing in their Bills for degrees.


7. Yearly College Tuition Costs In 1960’s: $1,250

For the first time, tuition has doubled. The population is growing and is mainstream practices, like going to colleges.

6. Yearly College Tuition Costs In 1970’s: $2,350

1965 was a big year for college – it was the year the Higher Education Act was passed. This act put in place financial aid systems as well as federal grants and interest rates. College was now becoming more accessible to all.

5. Yearly College Tuition Costs In 1980’s: $6,000

From 1970 to 1980, there was a 200% increase in college tuition. Also, at this time – grants were covering about 80% of tuition costs.

Also at this time, while admittance and attendance were growing, about 49% of all high school graduates are moving on to university.


4. Yearly College Tuition Costs In 1990’s: $13,420

Another big, consistent increase. Private school tuitions have risen considerably in the 1980s, but public school is still at around 8,000/year.

3. Yearly College Tuition Costs In 2000’s: $22,682

The 90s marked the decade that college tuition costs and loans left a major debt in people’s lives. More and more graduates are deciding to get married later, buy a house later, and have kids later.

College loans are a priority to pay off before incurring more debt.

2. Yearly College Tuition Costs In 2010’s: $36,280

As debt has risen, so have default rates. The 2000’s are showing increasing loan defaults and financial stress on graduates to pay back hefty sums.

In 2008 – it was noted that tuition had increased 439% since 1982 – while income has only gone up 147%. It’s no wonder people can’t pay back these loans!


1. Yearly College Tuition Costs In 2018: $45,556

And here we are. Student loans are a rampant issue and a focal point for all members of society. The growing costs of tuition are a major issue and will be detrimental in the growth of our nation.  

More and more students are trying to educate themselves at a lower cost by using an online degree program. The tuition for online college degrees range and can usually be more affordable. Yet, you may not get to experience college in the traditional sense it may be the only option for some due to the extravagant costs associated with a traditional brick and mortar college.