纽约联储:美国的大学学费知多少?

2019/06/13 07:42
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本科生一年的平均学费已经从1970年代的约5000美元升至目前的18000美元。

College is much more expensive than it used to be. Tuition for a bachelor’s degree has more than tripled from an (inflation-adjusted) average of about $5,000 per year in the 1970s to around $18,000 today. For many parents and prospective students, this high and rising tuition has raised concerns about whether getting a college degree is still worth it—a question we addressed in a 2014 study. In this post, we update that study, estimating the cost of college in terms of both out-of-pocket expenses, like tuition, and opportunity costs, the wages one gives up to attend school. We find that the cost of college has increased sharply over the past several years, though tuition increases are not the primary driver. Rather, opportunity costs have increased substantially as the wages of those without a college degree have climbed due to a strong labor market. In a follow-up post, we will consider whether college is still “worth it” by weighing the benefits relative to the costs to estimate the return to a college degree. 

在美国上大学需要花的钱比以前更多了。本科生一年的平均学费已经从1970年代的约5,000美元升至目前的18,000美元,扣除通胀因素的影响后升幅超过三倍。已经很贵且还在上涨的大学学费让很多家长和有志求学的学生开始担忧,“大学学位真的值这么多钱吗?”。我们在2014年的一项研究中已经讨论过这个话题。今天文章的主题是对2014年的研究做个跟进,从上大学的直接开销,如学费以及上大学的机会成本,也就是因为上大学而放弃赚钱的角度出发对上大学的成本做个测算。我们的研究表明,过去几年在美国上大学的成本大幅增加了,其中最主要的原因并不是学费的增加,而是上大学的机会成本出现大涨,非大学毕业生的薪酬水平因过去几年美国就业市场强劲增长而出现攀升。在随后的文章中,我们还将通过投入产出分析对上大学的回报情况进行测算,看看大学学位是否仍“物有所值”。

Tuition Is Only Part of the Cost of a College Degree

学费只是上学总成本中的一部分

The economic cost of college has two components. The first is out‑of‑pocket costs, which are expenses associated with attending college that wouldn’t otherwise be incurred. Tuition and fees are out-of-pocket costs, but room and board aren’t since they need to be paid regardless of whether one is in school. The second component is opportunity cost, which represents the value of what someone must give up in order to attend college. For most people, the opportunity cost of a college education is equivalent to the wages that could have been earned by working instead of going to school. It turns out that the opportunity cost of college is much more substantial than out-of-pocket costs, though both have been climbing in recent years. 

上大学的总成本由两个部分组成。第一是从兜里直接掏出来的真金白银,也就是只与上大学有关,否则不可能发生的费用。学杂费就是这笔直接掏出来的钱,但食宿费不包括在内,因为不管上不上大学这笔钱都要花;第二是机会成本,指的是某人为了上大学而不得不放弃的收益因为不可兼得,上大学就不能工作赚钱,想赚钱就不能同时上全日制大学对大多数人来说,大学教育的机会成本相当于不去上大学而去打工或上班赚的钱。事实证明,上大学的机会成本要远远高于上大学的直接开销,尽管这两项开支的金额近年来均在攀升。

Out-of-Pocket Costs

为上大学而掏出来的真金白银

To measure the out-of-pocket cost of college, we utilize data on the average tuition and fees at four-year institutions, published by the College Board. These figures represent the “sticker price” of attending college. However, because of financial aid, many students, if not most, do not actually pay this price. The “net price” subtracts funds students receive that need not be paid back, including grants, tuition concessions, and tax benefits. Student loans are essentially a financing tool used as a way to pay for college, and so they are not considered a cost of college (interest might be considered a cost, but interest rates on student loans are frequently subsidized at below-market levels and interest is often deferred while a student is attending school). All in all, the net price is more representative of the out-of-pocket expenses paid by the average student, and tends to be less than half of the sticker price. 

为了计算在美国上大学的直接开支,我们用的是四年制大学学杂费的平均值,数据来源于美国大学联合会,该金额代表的是大学的“标准收费”。但是,由于能获得一些财政补助,即使不是大多数学生,但也会有很多大学生实际支付的学费会低于这个“收费标准”。“学费净额”是扣除了学生无须偿还的财政补助后的金额,这些补助包括奖学金、学费减免和税收优惠。学生贷款实际上是一种用于支付大学学费的融资手段,因此不被计入上大学的成本中,贷款利息应被视为成本,但学生贷款的利率经常会得到一些补贴,因而低于市场利率水平,同时学生贷款的利息支出可以延迟支付。总而言之,“学费净额”更能代表普通学生上大学的直接开支水平,该金额通常不到正常收费标准的一半。

In the chart below, we plot the average sticker price and net price for a bachelor’s degree over time. The average sticker price increased from about $5,000 per year in the 1970s to around $18,000 today. However, net prices are much lower due to financial aid, and have tended to increase a bit more slowly than sticker prices. On average, the net price of college has increased from around $2,300 in the 1970s to about $8,000 today. Thus, if a student completed a bachelor’s degree in four years, he or she could expect to pay an average of roughly $32,000 out of pocket. 

在下图中,我们列出了攻读本科学位的正常收费标准和学费净额的历年变化情况。正常收费标准的均值从1970年代的约5,000美元升至目前的18,000美元,但受财政补助的影响学费净额要远远低于标准收费,而且增速也往往低于标准收费的涨幅。平均来算的话,大学学费的净额从1970年代的2,300美元左右增至目前的8,000美元左右。因此,如果一个大学生完成了四年的大学学习,直接开销的均值预期将达到32,000美元左右。

Opportunity Costs

上大学的机会成本

While the high and rising cost of college tuition receives considerable attention, out-of-pocket expenses prove to be only a small part of the total cost of college once opportunity costs are considered. Attending college on a full-time basis typically requires delaying entry into the labor market and forgoing wages that would be available to those with a high school education. As is common, we use the average wages earned by a high school graduate during the first four years of employment as a proxy for the opportunity cost of college, though this provides only a rough estimate since there may be inherent differences between people who go to college and those who don’t. 

虽然大学学费居高不下以及不断上涨引起了广泛关注,但事实证明上大学的直接开销只是上大学总成本中的一小部分,因为还得考虑机会成本的问题。上全日制大学通常需要学生本人延迟就业并不得不放弃只有高中毕业后直接参加工作的人才能赚到的薪酬收入。与前面的惯例一样,我们用高中毕业生工作前四年的平均工资来作为上大学的机会成本,尽管这只是个大概的估计,因为在上大学的人和不上大学的人之间有很多内在的差别。


Using data on wages and an approach outlined in our 2014 study, we estimate this opportunity cost, shown in the chart below. Someone pursuing a bachelor’s degree could expect to forgo more than $120,000 in wages—almost four times net tuition costs. This opportunity cost has changed over time as the wages of high school graduates have fluctuated. Notably, opportunity costs fell following the Great Recession as the wages of young workers with only a high school diploma declined, but picked up markedly after 2012 as the labor market strengthened and wages increased. 

在使用2014年的研究中使用过的方法和以上数据对上大学的机会成本进行测算后,得出了下图中的结果。一个人因为上大学读本科学位而少赚的收入预期将达到120,000美元,几乎是大学净学费的四倍。随着时间的推移,这个机会成本还会发生变化,因为高中学历人士的工资水平有波动。值得注意的是,2008年经济危机过后机会成本出现了回落,因为最高学历为高中的年轻劳动力的工资水平出现下降,但在2012年之后随着美国就业市场走强和整体薪酬水平的提升而增加。

Total Costs

在美国上大学的总成本

Adding out-of-pocket expenses and opportunity costs yields an estimate of the total economic cost of a bachelor’s degree, shown in the chart above. Looking at the pattern over time, costs were flat or declining from the early 1970s through the mid-1990s, as rising tuition was offset by falling opportunity costs during this period, which were declining as the wages of high school graduates fell. Despite ongoing tuition hikes, rising costs were not really apparent until the late 1990s. By then, the wages of high school graduates had begun to climb, increasing opportunity costs and total costs until the early 2000s. Costs fell again shortly after the Great Recession before resuming their upward march in 2012. Over the past several years, rising tuition has combined with increasing opportunity costs to push up the total cost of college from less than $120,000 in 2011 to more than $150,000 in 2018—a roughly 30 percent increase in just seven years. Still, while the cost of a bachelor’s degree has in fact climbed, it is only about 10 percent higher than it was in the early 1970s. 

把直接开销和机会成本放在一起就会得出美国大学本科学位经济学意义上的总成本,见上图中的黄线。看走势可知,从1970年代早期至1990年代中期,在美国上大学的成本总体上增速平缓,有时还有下降,学费的增加被机会成本的下降抵消掉了,因为高中学历人士的工资水平也在下降。尽管当时的学费标准在提高,但上大学的总成本在1990年代末以前增幅并不明显。1990年代末开始,高中学历人士的工资水平开始上涨,导致上大学的机会成本和上大学的总成本一直涨到2000年代早期。总成本在2008年经济危机之后不久再次出现回落,但从2012年3月份起又一次开始上涨。在过去几年里,大学收费标准和机会成本双双上涨加在一起导致在美国上大学的总成本从2011年的不到120,000美元增至2018年的150,000美元还多,仅用了7年时间就涨了差不多30%。尽管读美国大学学位的总成本是在增加,但实际上只比1970年代初涨了10%左右。

Cost Is Only One Side of the Equation

成本因素只是整个问题的一个方面

It may be tempting to conclude that the high and rising cost of college means that obtaining a bachelor’s degree is no longer a good investment. However, such a conclusion would be premature without first considering the payoff. Our next post weighs the economic benefits relative to the costs to estimate the return to a college degree. 

单看数字的话,很容易得出这个结论:上大学的成本已经很贵且还在上涨,说明在美国读本科学位已经不合算了。但在没有算清楚上大学会有何种收益的情况下就得出这个结论未免有点操之过急,在下一篇文章中我们将通过投入产出分析看看取得大学学位会带来什么回报。

译者  王为

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