So I took data from the College Board, and looked at it four different ways, to show how the story changes depending on where you live. Each of these four views requires you to choose a type of institution (public four-year, public two-year, or private not-for-profit), and to choose whether you want to look at inflation adjusted tuition or nominal (non adjusted). I recommend inflation-adjusted (unless you're interested in nostalgia) because it gives you a better sense of how much tuition has increased. One view (at the bottom) also allows you to compare over any period of time, by changing the beginning or ending years.
Before beginning, just a caution: Different states have different numbers of private institutions, and varying levels of selectivity among them. I'm not sure the average tuition and fees at private universities in any state is especially meaningful, but I've included it here anyway. The data was free, so ignore it if you agree with me on this point.
And while the story of this post is tuition, there is a sub-context as well: The things that interest me about data visualization. The story you want to tell drives the way you choose to display your data. The corollary, of course, is that the display you choose limits the story you can tell. So choose wisely.
Here's the first. On this you must also choose a focus state, by using the control on the right. The state you select then changes color to show where it ranks among the states.
And finally, a good old line chart. See the trends for one state, both with regard to actual dollar amounts for the three different types of institutions, and the percent change over time. The spread between the three different types is most interesting, I think. Compare California to Vermont to Florida to Texas, for instance, to see how those states' philosophies vary. Note that you can change the time window by de-selecting any years to leave just the ones you want.