Makeover Monday: US Tuition

Going to university is expensive, here in the UK there were demonstrations when the government tripled the cost of going to university in 2012. I was lucky enough to enrol on my part-time degree in 2011 and thus saw just an inflation related increase across my 4 years of study. Had my fees cost £9k per year and I probably wouldn’t be able to afford to go to university.

Across the pond the situation is not very different which the average cost per year of attending university in the United States standing currently at $9,142, and that’s the theme for this week’s Makeover Monday.

Here’s this week’s original, click to read the article.


At first I find the above visualisation overwhelming, the colours don’t work for me. When using colour to highlight something it’s good to keep the number of colours to a minimum. In this case they have used 8 and that makes it really hard to memorize which colour is which value.

The explanatory text is rather small and it doesn’t make it immediately obvious that we are looking at a 5 year percentage increase. The grid lines on the map are really distracting as well and I would have removed them. With regards to the bar chart apart from the aforementioned colour overload, I’m not sure leaving the axis when we have labels for each state adds much. I personally wouldn’t show labels for each state and leave the axis. Finally if the story is to highlight how expensive universities have become, how come the cheapest university ranks 1st, it would make more sense to me to order them in descending order.

That said here’s my take on it, click for interactive version

US Tuition

Here I tried to keep the original story by showing the same data that was on the original map as a gant chart on the right-hand side. I’ve added some annotations to help the viewer in their understanding of the data. As a guide the orange colour denotes “bad” as in high tuition cost in the case of the map or high increase in the case of the chart, and the green-ish denotes “good” as in an increase below US average on the chart and where the cost of studying is not as high.

At the bottom I’ve decided to bring things into perspective by showing the prospective amount of debt a student will incur at the end of their studies, followed by the median incomes. I was going to show the overall median income only to start with, but when faced by this huge discrepancy between men and women I thought it should go in as well. Often news articles will highlight the cost of education but repaying that debt is twice as hard for women as they start their careers already on the back foot in relation to men.

The wage gap is one of the issues faced by women and one we should all care about. If you believe women should be given the same opportunities and rewards as men in every facet of life come along to London’s first Data+Women this week and take part. This is not an event just for women either, come along.

As always please leave any comment below and don’t forget to check out the other entries on twitter.

Thanks for reading