To aid in figuring out how much you should be saving for college, it is helpful to know what the cost will be at the time the student is attending school. Unfortunately, we cannot predict this, but there are some cost-determining factors we can use to help guide us through how much we should be saving.  The two we will focus on in this post are historical data and public policy.

1)   Future cost of college based on past data:
In the chart below, we see that there is a steady increase in the total cost of tuition, fees, and room and board over the past 40 years. The increase is an average of 4.27% each year for private schools and 3.74% for public schools (already adjusted for inflation).

Source: The College Board

2)   Future cost of college based on the outcome of the upcoming election:

Both candidates have addressed that they would like to decrease the cost of college, but offer different views on how it should be done and who it should affect.

Hillary Clinton’s plan:

  • Make public college free to some students 

  • Students from families with incomes under $85,000 a year will not have to pay tuition to attend 4 year in-state public colleges. By 2021, this will be extended to also benefit students from families with incomes under $125,000 a year.

  • Make community college free to all

How she plans to achieve it:

  • Closing tax loopholes for higher income tax payers

  • Colleges will be held responsible for lowering costs, improving outcomes, and providing additional support to students from disadvantaged backgrounds

  • Students will be expected to work 10 hours per week to cover a portion of the costs


  • Providing free public college to families with incomes under $125,000 creates an uneven subsidy because there is so much variation in costs of living based on the area where the family lives and tuition costs based on the school the student attends.

  • Colleges that receive aid from the federal government to cover tuition will be incentivized to increase the price of tuition.

  • Community colleges do a great job of keeping prices low and affordable to students. Many students from low-income families already receive aid to attend school at little to no cost. Making community college free for all will mostly benefit the students who weren’t receiving aid because they come from families who can afford the cost of tuition.

Donald Trump’s plan:

  • Decrease the cost of college for all students

  • Increase the opportunity to attend, complete, and pay for higher education ranging from vocational programs, 2-year college, and 4-year college.

How he plans to achieve it:

  • Providing universities with federal tax breaks in exchange for a reduction in the costs to students

  • Colleges focusing endowment spending on students


  • Education has not been a major focus of Donald Trump’s campaign.

  • There is not a lot of information on his plans to impact the cost of college and as a result, there is also not a lot criticism against the plans he has shared.