College tuition priced at $20,000 in 1978 $299,285.44 in 2022

College Tuition Inflation Calculator

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Prices for College Tuition, 1978-2022 ($20,000)

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices for college tuition and fees are 1,396.43% higher in 2022 versus 1978 (a $279,285.44 difference in value).

Between 1978 and 2022: College tuition experienced an average inflation rate of 6.34% per year. This rate of change indicates significant inflation. In other words, college tuition costing $20,000 in the year 1978 would cost $299,285.44 in 2022 for an equivalent purchase. Compared to the overall inflation rate of 3.44% during this same period, inflation for college tuition was higher.

In the year 1978: Pricing changed by 3.47%, which is below the average yearly change for college tuition during the 1978-2022 time period. Compared to inflation for all items in 1978 (7.63%), inflation for college tuition was much lower.

Price Inflation for College tuition and fees since 1977

Consumer Price Index, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Years with the largest changes in pricing: 1982 (13.44%), 1981 (12.41%), and 1992 (10.75%).

View price changes for other categories
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Buying power of $20,000.00 since 1978

Below are calculations of equivalent buying power for College tuition, over time, for $20,000 beginning in 1978. Each of the amounts below is equivalent in terms of what it could buy at the time:

YearUSD ValueInflation Rate
1978$20,000.003.47%
1979$21,589.637.95%
1980$23,646.649.53%
1981$26,581.9212.41%
1982$30,154.0813.44%
1983$33,292.2410.41%
1984$36,702.6210.24%
1985$40,035.959.08%
1986$43,276.848.09%
1987$46,533.137.52%
1988$50,077.047.62%
1989$54,049.827.93%
1990$58,412.948.07%
1991$64,360.5510.18%
1992$71,281.4610.75%
1993$77,950.699.36%
1994$83,392.406.98%
1995$88,407.816.01%
1996$93,410.375.66%
1997$98,184.395.11%
1998$102,331.794.22%
1999$106,394.453.97%
2000$110,793.534.13%
2001$116,456.095.11%
2002$124,401.646.82%
2003$134,825.378.38%
2004$147,598.879.47%
2005$158,618.397.47%
2006$169,250.136.70%
2007$179,839.096.26%
2008$191,054.906.24%
2009$202,536.186.01%
2010$213,057.095.19%
2011$223,761.125.02%
2012$234,613.514.85%
2013$244,522.754.22%
2014$253,555.033.69%
2015$262,353.543.47%
2016$269,414.612.69%
2017$274,799.182.00%
2018$280,876.072.21%
2019$288,895.792.86%
2020$292,871.441.38%
2021$295,416.130.87%
2022$299,285.441.31%*
* Not final. See inflation summary for latest details.

Raw Consumer Price Index data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for College tuition and fees:

Year1977197819791980198119821983198419851986198719881989199019911992199319941995199619971998199920002001200220032004200520062007200820092010201120122013201420152016201720182019202020212022
CPI57.90059.90864.66970.83179.62390.32399.723109.938119.923129.631139.385150.000161.900174.969192.785213.515233.492249.792264.815279.800294.100306.523318.692331.869348.831372.631403.854442.115475.123506.969538.687572.283606.674638.188670.251702.758732.440759.495785.850807.000823.129841.332865.354877.263884.885896.475

Adjust college tuition prices for inflation

Start with the inflation rate formula:

CPI in 2022 / CPI in 1978 * 1978 USD value = 2022 USD value

Then plug in historical CPI values from above. The CPI for College tuition and fees was 59.908 in the year 1978 and 896.475 in 2022:

896.475 / 59.908 * $20,000 = $299,285.44

Therefore, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, $20,000 in 1978 has the same "purchasing power" as $299,285.44 in 2022 (in the CPI category of College tuition and fees).


Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking the Consumer Price Index for College tuition and fees in 1977. In addition to college tuition, the index produces monthly data on changes in prices paid by urban consumers for a variety of goods and services.

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