The cost of an education has risen three times as fast as the consumer price index.

A short series of posts in the DesignIntelligence blog has looked at the rising cost of tuition and the impact on students and emerging professionals. College debts are an order of magnitude higher than just a few decades ago and have risen more than three times as fast as the consumer price index.

With a long history of research into architecture education, DesignIntelligence for the first time published research on the cost of tuition and fees for accredited U.S. architecture programs last year. This year’s data is now compiled, and it shows some remarkable changes from 2010-11 to 2011-12:

  • In-state tuition and fees at B.Arch programs rose 3.4 percent from $19,454 to $20,115 a year.
  • Out-of-state tuition and fees at B.Arch programs showed a slight decrease of 1.2 percent from $25,725 to $25,400 a year. 
  • At the graduate level, in-state tuition and fees increased 2.1 percent from $19,186 to $19,595 a year.
  • Out-of-state tuition and fees showed increases at the M.Arch level of 1.6 percent from $25,749 to $26,182 a year. 
  • Tuition increases were highest at public, in-state B.Arch programs, up 6.2 percent from last year.
  • Graduate programs at private institutions were close behind with 5.4 percent increases over last year.

While tuition and fees continue to increase, it is often against the will of many deans and chairs of these programs. Economic conditions and tuition increase dictated by state legislatures, boards of regents, or boards of directors make these difficult decisions. Every architecture program in the country offers some level of financial support based on need and merit to ensure the accessibility of their program to qualified students.

In the recent New York Times article “Burden of College Loans on Graduates Grows,” Lauren Asher, president of the Institute for College Access and Success is quoted: “If you have a lot of people finishing or leaving school with a lot of debt, their choices may be very different than the generation before them. Things like buying a home, starting a family, starting a business, saving for their own kids’ education may not be options for people who are paying off a lot of student debt.” This importance of this issue cannot be overstated for the future of professional practices.

The increasing strain of college debt has a significant impact on the willingness and ability of individuals to seek ownership in design practices at a time when generational demographics most demand it. Over the next decade, there will be tremendous pressure to transition both ownership and leadership in practices across the globe. It is critical for professional practices to factor this into their transition planning. Our future depends on it.