College Costs a Heavy Burden for Low-Income Families
How affordable is college in your state?

News SREB News Release

The rising cost of college hits low-income families hardest, slowing progress toward states’ educational attainment goals and the workforces their economies need. The latest SREB college affordability profiles tell the story of affordability in each state.

The cost of attending college demands a large share of annual earnings for the lowest-income families, which make up 13% to 31% of the population in Southern Regional Education Board states. Affordability is an important lever to help more students earn degrees and credentials that meet the requirements of a workplace transformed by technology, says SREB President Stephen L. Pruitt.

“This was already an urgent need, and the COVID-19 crisis has made college affordability both more important and more difficult,” Pruitt said. “Students, families, colleges and states are all facing new financial challenges.”

SREB analysts will offer insights from the profiles in a webinar on Wednesday, May 6 at 11 a.m. Eastern. 

The reports show how the costs of college are shared among families and states, and how tuition, financial aid and other measures that drive affordability have changed. They detail the share of annual earnings that families at various income levels need to cover the net price of attending public colleges and universities in each SREB state. Net price is tuition and fees, room and board, books and other expenses, minus financial aid that students receive from the institution or from federal or state grants.


Each state-specific report details:

  • Net price at different kinds of institutions, two-year and four-year
  • Average family income bands
  • Tuition increases over the past decade
  • Changes in state funding for public colleges over the past decade
  • State financial aid for students
  • Student borrowing

The reports are designed to help policymakers improve affordability. SREB’s Commission on College Affordability in the South recommended that states make it a priority, during times of financial distress and budget shortfalls, to protect funds for low-income students’ access to and success in college. Find more college affordability resources at

Media contact: Alan Richard, (404) 879-5528