Although most colleges and universities do raise tuition by a small percentage each year (for example, for the 2021-22 academic year four-year public universities raised tuition by 1.6% on average), many schools are being forced by inflation to hike up their tuition by as much as 5% for the upcoming academic year.

And, since inflation has risen by about 9% to date, even a 5% tuition hike won’t be enough to cover college’s increased costs. This puts both schools and students in a tough position, as a 5% increase in tuition will, of course, most affect the students who have to pay more to stay in school.

We surveyed 1,000 college students across the U.S. to see how a 5% tuition increase for the upcoming school year would affect them.

The results:

  • Close to one in four students say they would be forced to drop some or all of their classes if their tuition costs increase by 5%
  • More than one in three say they would have to reduce their spending on food to compensate
  • 24% would resort to taking out more student loans

42% of College Students Say a 5% Tuition Increase Would Greatly Affect Their Finances

When asked how a 5% tuition increase would affect their finances in general, a total of 91% of respondents stated that it would somewhat (49%) or greatly (42%) affect them, with only 9% stating that such an increase would not affect them.

Although private schools typically increase their tuition at a steeper rate than public or community colleges, interestingly enough, the percentages of students who would be affected by a 5% tuition increase did not change notably when filtered by the type of school attended.

35% of Students Say They Would Have to Reduce Spending on Food

In order to compensate for a 5% increase in tuition, more than one-third of respondents stated that they would need to reduce their spending on food. Many also stated that they would reduce their spending on leisure activities, pick up an additional job, and/or work more hours at their current job.

1 in 4 Students Would Need to Take Out More Loans

In addition to cutting costs and working more, 24% of respondents say they would need to take out more student loans to pay for the increase in tuition costs. Of this group, the majority have already incurred $10,000 or more in student loans.

Nearly 1 in 4 Students Would Have to Drop All or Some of Their College Courses

If tuition does go up by 5%, a total of 23% of respondents say they would be forced to drop some (17%) or all (6%) of their college classes. Of this group, the majority have already taken out student loans and are projected to graduate by 2024, indicating that they are around halfway through their degree programs, if at a four-year institution.

Since studies show that the majority of college dropouts don’t end up returning to school, the students who do drop out due to inflation-based tuition increases will enter the workforce already having student debt but without the degree to accompany it.

Colleges across the country are facing difficult choices for the fall semester, as inflation necessitates they raise the cost of tuition to match, but risk causing students who are struggling financially to drop out without completing their program.


This survey was commissioned by and conducted online by the survey platform Pollfish between July 22 and July 26, 2022. In total, 1,000 participants in the U.S. were surveyed. All participants had to pass through demographic filters to ensure they were between the ages of 17 and 25, had a high school education, and listed their employment status as “student.” In addition, respondents had to clear a screening question to confirm that they were currently enrolled in college courses or would be by the fall 2022 semester.