Mother and daughter doing finances together at home


Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.

If it seems like college bills are just getting higher and higher, you're not wrong — but that higher price tag might be because of your family's financial standing. According to federal data analyzed by The Hechinger Report, almost 700 universities and colleges have raised what their lowest-income students pay more than the prices paid by their highest-income students over the last decade.

While students from lower-income families generally still pay less than those from higher-income families, the report points out, the rising costs of college are increasingly falling on those who are the least likely to absorb them, particularly as the financial aid from state and federal sources fails to keep up with increases. Even at the two out of three colleges where costs went up for both poor and rich students over the last decade, it went up faster for low-income students, who saw hikes of 70% versus 27%.

Gallery: How To Save Money in College, According to Redditors

At 80 universities and colleges, the net price (the price paid after discounts and financial aid) more than doubled for the poorest students, while at 19 it more than tripled, and at 10 the price quintupled. The net price went up for the poorest students while going down for the richest ones at 90 colleges and universities.

What gives? The Hechinger Report says the most common reason given is the growing competition for students from wealthy families, who often add to the school's revenue but expect scholarships and discounts that bleed money away from poorer students. So if you have a kid heading to college and don't fall into the higher income bracket colleges are looking for, be prepared to pay up.

To get a picture of the actual cost of attending a college and compare college costs with students from similar household income levels, the Hechinger Report also features the TuitionTracker tool.

For more great personal finance stories, please sign up for our free newsletters.

Cheapism in the News