New “Congressional Yearbook” Reveals Members of Congress Paid Significantly Less for College Than Today’s Students

Release Date: 
February 15, 2018

Washington, DC – Today, Demos, a New York public policy organization, released a first-of-its-kind congressional college yearbook, which compares the cost of college tuition members of Congress experienced with the cost of college for today’s students. The yearbook, entitled When Congress Went to College, finds that the average student today paid nearly $20,000 a year more for college than current members of Congress.

“This yearbook demonstrates that current students face college costs that dwarf those paid by the very elected officials who have been tasked with tackling the problem. Congress needs to work toward a more equitable and affordable system of higher education, and should pay forward to this generation the opportunities that were once bestowed upon them,” said Mark Huelsman, Senior Policy Analyst at Demos. “This yearbook makes it clear that the financial burdens facing young people today look quite different than members of Congress may have faced in their younger years.”

In compiling the yearbook, Demos examined the published tuition at the colleges and universities where all current members of the 115th Congress attended, including all 435 House members and 100 Senators. 

Key Data:

  • On average, 1 year of tuition at a public or private university was $3,794 (an average of $8,487 in today’s dollars) for members of the House of Representatives, when they went to college. Today, students attending the same mix of colleges would see tuition bills averaging $24,143 per year, an increase of over $15,000.
  • On average, Senators saw a sticker price of $3,423 when they went off to school ($9,480 in today’s dollars), but would face a much steeper price of $28,727 per year if they attended the same schools now.
  • The tuition paid by 435 members of the House of Representatives, at the time they attended, totaled over $1.6 million, or $3.6 million in today’s dollars, for 1 year of college. The same number of students attending the same schools today would pay a total of nearly $10.4 million.
  • The 100 members of the U.S. Senate paid a total of over $342,000 in tuition for 1 year ($948,000 in today’s dollars), but students at those colleges today would pay nearly $2.9 million for the same year of education.

The Congressional Yearbook is the first in a series of research products that Demos will release in the coming months on the burden of the rising cost of college.

Since 2006, Demos has been a leader in advancing policy solutions to address the college debt crisis facing America’s students. After years of studying the trends in funding for higher education at the state level, Demos released a policy blueprint in 2014, titled The Affordable College Compact, under the leadership of Tamara Draut, Vice President of Policy and Research. For the first time, the compact outlined a detailed approach to achieve debt-free college through federal-state partnerships, with the goal of making public higher education more affordable for all students.