3 Interactives: The Rising Cost of College

Nov 04, 2020
Interactive, Paying for College

The cost of college has skyrocketed over the past fifty years significantly outpacing CPI (see chart on the right). There is no singular reason why, unfortunately, it was a perfect storm of problems that have coalesced to arguably one of the greatest challenges we face as a country. 

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services. In other words, the inflation rate. In our lifetimes we’ve seen a significant dislocation for rising prices from various goods and services, and there is no better way to show this to students than to illustrate it using the cost of college. 

Here are 3 interactives you can use to teach the impact of inflation using the cost of college.

#1 Calculate the Rising Cost of College 

  • Have students investigate the cost of college in certain years, such as their own birthdays, or the year you graduated from high school, using this data from the U.S. Department of Education. 
  • Have students use this interactive to enter the cost of college for the assigned year(s) to see what it likely would cost in today’s dollars. 

#2 Illustrate the Rising Cost of College

  • Using the economic data tool FRED from the St. Louis Federal Reserve, have students illustrate the increasing cost of college over those same years. 

#3 Plan for the Rising Cost of College

  • Enter your students into the Payback Challenge. Have students play the game Time for Payback and respond to an essay prompt. The submission deadline is 11:59 PM PT November 20th, 2020. Any details can be found here.

Bonus Resources: 


Check out the NGPF Interactive Library which includes engaging interactives and worksheets too! 

About the Author

Brian Page

Making a difference in the lives of students through financial capability is Brian’s greatest passion. He comes to NGPF after fifteen years of public school teaching where he was the ‘11 Ohio Department of Education recipient of a Milken National Educator Award, the CEE Forbes Award winner, and a Money Magazine/CNN "Money Hero". He served on the working group for President Obama's Advisory Council on Financial Capability. He has private school experience as a Trustee for the Cincinnati Country Day School and was a past Ohio Jump$tart President. Brian holds a BBA and M.Ed. When Brian isn’t working alongside his NGPF teammates he is likely spending time with his wife, three children, and dog; hiking, or watching Ohio State football.