Light & Verity

The cost of Yale: a history

The Yale College term bill will top $60,000 next year. Here are the figures for the last 75 years—in actual dollars and adjusted for inflation.

Chart: Mark Zurolo '01MFA. Source: Yale University (term bills); Bureau of Labor Statistics (adjusted numbers).

The 2015–16 term bill for Yale College—that’s tuition, room, and board—will top $60,000 for the first time: $62,200, to be exact. It got us wondering how that bill has changed over the last 75 years. The first one to top $5,000 was in 1973; the $10,000 landmark came nine years later, and it took eleven more years to get to $25,000. This graph shows the actual cost and the adjusted cost (in 2015 dollars) for every year since 1940. As always, a reminder: not every Yale undergraduate pays the full amount. This year, 52 percent of students received financial aid; the median net price of Yale for them was $11,925.

Roll over the dots on the graph to see the figures for each year.


  • Paul F. Snare
    Paul F. Snare, 1:56pm May 08 2015 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate


  • Ralph R. Berggren
    Ralph R. Berggren, 11:11am May 16 2015 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    I suggest plotting on a log (or semi-log, as we used to call them) plot. A straight line then shows a constant rate of growth and really gives a much better idea of what is happening.

    When we were at Yale ('54) if you wanted to plot stock prices (or anything else) you went to the stationery store and bought the plotting paper, and everybody knew enough to use the standard semi-log plot. At least people knew what a semi-log plot was. (Linear in time and log in amount.)

    Stock sellers really like the linear plots better, perhaps because it confuses the buyer into thinking things are better than they are.

    And, yes, we wonder why the increase. Some prices, like housing, have gone up, but are included in the CPI.

    We do expect more. In my parents time families slept more than 1 to a bed. My brother and I shared a room. It would be interesting to hear from you just how expectations have increased.

  • Jim Clark
    Jim Clark, 6:22pm May 18 2015 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    So my class of 1972, paid 2015 equivalent of just about $94,375 for four years. Class of 2016 will pay $236,035. That is just about a 250% increase. With an endowment of $23.9 billion, (up in 30 years from $1.2 billion), does Yale have any reasonable justification for this?

  • Rick Bockrath
    Rick Bockrath, 10:50am May 19 2015 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    Re Mr Berggren's suggestion of semi-log paper for the possible convenience of a straight line. I gave up that approach during Reagan's time in office as I followed his effect on the national debt -- the increase really started then. Very simple software became available that would fit an exponential line ~instantly, providing the annual percent increase AND leaving the linear-linear plot to convey the full impact of what was transpiring. Semi-log paper was practical back in the day but now it really has no place. Much better here would have been inclusion of a fitted exponential line -- and its coefficient for annual increase -- as reference.

  • Denny Gallaudet  YC'65
    Denny Gallaudet YC'65, 11:39am May 19 2015 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    The term bill chart bears an eery resemblance to the income inequality data Emmanuel Saez presents on his website. Namely, Yale's term bill takes off under Ronald Reagan at the same time the top 10% begin materially to increase their share of income in the U.S. So a Yale degree is nominally priced as a luxury good - what else is new? Yes the financial aid package is generous; expected family contribution is $0 for the 50% of US families earning under $65,000 per year. Yet apparently only 10% of Yale students today come from this bottom 50%. And close to half the students can afford to pay the full freight. Why this should be so remains a mystery to me. It would appear that in our meritocracy the rich are getting richer - and their kids smarter.

    JOSEPH MCCABE, 3:35pm May 19 2015 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    I ask the same question: WHY? Faculty and Administration salary increases and,perhaps more importantly,retirement expenses? This runaway inflation in University tuition applies everywhere,not just Yale,of course.

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