Skip to main content

Joint Economic Committee Democrats Chairman - Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM)

JEC Dems Report: The College Affordability Crisis in America

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Joint Economic Committee Democrats released a report today that outlines the increasing cost of a college education in the United States. College costs have soared for both public and private institutions since the early 1970s, putting college out of reach for many Americans. It is important that Congress and the administration address rising college costs to ensure that all Americans have access to an affordable, high-quality, postsecondary education.

The report, “The College Affordability Crisis in America,” highlights that in past generations, Americans could work through the summer to pay for their tuition expenses. A student working full time over the summer of 1971 would only need to earn $2.70 an hour, a time at which the minimum wage was $1.60 an hour, to earn enough to pay for a year at a public, 4-year college. Today, that student would need to earn $38.63 an hour. If they want to attend a private college, they would need to earn $87.25 an hour over the summer to cover tuition and room and board.

“No American should be excluded from college because of cost,” said U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Ranking Member of the Joint Economic Committee. “Although college is not the only road to the American Dream in the country, we must ensure that a college education is in reach to those who wish to pursue one. We cannot stand by and watch as tuition costs sky rocket and student loan debt surges—making a college degree unaffordable for many Americans. Congress must take action to tackle the growing cost of higher education.”

The report highlights multiple approaches Congress can take to address the college affordability crisis in the United States, including alleviating the cost burden on students, changing the incentives that colleges face, and offering better guidance and information to students. Congress should expand low-cost, high-quality pathways and provide the support students who enroll in college need to complete their degrees.

The report is the third of a series on education. Click here to view the report.

For more information, please contact Latoya Veal at or 202-224-0379.