These estimates are calculated for full-time, full year undergraduate students enrolled in the 2003-2004 academic year. Nationally, approximately 15 million undergraduates were enrolled during the start of the Fall 2003 semester and 19 million students were enrolled at some point during the 2003-2004 academic year. The sample contains roughly 80,000 undergraduates which means that each student in the sample represents approximately 240 students in the total population. In the following graphs, the student budgets are represented by the area and the net prices are represented by the columns.
We have separated the dependent students from the independent students. The income variable for the dependent students is based on their parents' income. The income variable for the independent students is based on their or their spouse's income. The mean, or average, is used to calculate the approximate costs faced by each income category. The median could also be used. The choice of which variable to use depends on your objective- the median gives us the halfway cutoff and is less sensitive to outliers than the average (or mean). We use the mean because that provides a better estimate of for our objective.
There is not much variation in the student budgets or the net prices across different income categories. Net prices are $1,000- $6,000 less than the given student budgets.
Combing all independent students into one category can be problematic because the circumstances for independent students vary substantially from students who were dependent and recently turned 24 to those who are parents with children. These different characteristics need to be considered for in-depth analysis, but in these graphs, they will be analyzed as one group based on their dependency status. Also, only 23% of independent students are enrolled full-time and full-year thus the sample size for this group is rather small.
The public 4-year sector includes approximately 5 million students nationally (or approximately 37% of all undergraduates). In this graph, you can notice that while grants reduce the cost of attendance, the net price as a percent of income for those in the lowest categories (less than $30,000 for dependent and less than $20,000 for independent) is much larger than those in the highest category. Thus, on average, students whose families earn less than $30,000, face a price of attendance which is roughly 27% of their income if they earn at the upper bound of the income category.
Approximately 6 million, or 43%, of all undergraduates are enrolled in public 2-year institutions. Unlike the other sectors, the stated price is fairly close to the net price for many students. The lower income students, on average, pay about $3,000 less than the stated price.
Nationally, 2.3 million, or approximately 16%, of undergraduates attend private not-for-profit 4-year institutions. The greatest difference between the stated price and the net price is noticed in this sector. Grants reduce the stated price by roughly $7,000-$11,000.
Some might only be interested in the prices paid by students who are enrolled in institutions in their state of residency. The following graphs provide figures at the national level and the three major institutional sectors for full-time, full-year students attending in their state of residency.