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Federal Support for Higher Education: 2021

Education - Briefing

We are going to look at proposals to reduce the costs of getting an education beyond high school, such as 2-year and 4-year degrees, as well as occupational certificates.

A reason that these proposals have been put forward is that the cost of getting a higher education has increased much faster than families’ income. Since 1980, the price of attending a public university, including tuition and other necessary expenses such as books, housing and food, has increased by around 170% (after inflation), while the typical family’s income has increased by around 38%. 

In order to help cover the costs of higher education, students and their families can get grants and scholarships from the federal government, a state government, their university or college, or private organizations.  These may be based on a student’s family income, academic performance, or other characteristics such as athletic performance.

The majority of students, about three in four, receive some financial aid, such as grants and scholarships.  That aid tends to cover some but not all of their tuition, and rarely covers other necessary expenses, such as books, housing and food.