Sources: Bloomberg, US Bureau of Labour Statistics

US college education is 'less and less affordable'

The cost of obtaining a university education in the United States has soared twelvefold over the past three decades, a sign the educational system is in need of reform, according to lawmakers.

The chart of the week shows college tuition and fees have surged 1,120 per cent since records began in 1978, four times faster than the increase in the consumer price index. Medical expenses have climbed 601 per cent, while the price of food has increased 244 per cent over the same period.

"Soaring tuition and shrinking incomes are making college less and less affordable," said Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat and chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labour and Pensions.

"For millions of young people, rising college costs are putting the American dream on hold, or out of reach," Harkin said.

Pell grants, which are federal government funds given to students showing financial need, and loan programmes are insufficient to address systemic problems in paying for higher education, Harkin and top committee Republican Mike Enzi of Wyoming said at a July 19 Congressional hearing on how to curb the costs.