Senior Policy Analyst
Program Director, State Policy Fellowship Program
A decade since the Great Recession, state spending on public colleges and universities remains well below historical levels, contributing to dramatic cost increases for students and families, our major new report explains. That’s left many students with little choice but to assume onerous debt or give up on higher education altogether. The problem is especially serious for students from low-income families and for black and Hispanic students, who have historically faced large barriers to attending college.
Nationally, state funding for public two- and four-year colleges in the 2018 school year (that is, the school year ending in 2018) was more than $7 billion below its 2008 level, after adjusting for inflation. States have reinvested in higher education in the past few years, but not enough to make up for the cuts they imposed after the recession hit, even as state revenues have returned to pre-recession levels.
After adjusting for inflation:
As states have cut higher education, the price of attending public colleges has risen significantly faster than family incomes.
With tuition outpacing incomes and financial aid failing to make up the difference, debt burdens for students and their families continue to grow.
The benefit of a college education has never been greater. To help build a stronger middle class and develop the entrepreneurs and skilled workers needed for a strong state economy, states should renew their commitment to high-quality, affordable public higher education. Adequately funding public colleges would help us realize a vision of an America in which everyone — regardless of where they were born, where they live, the color of their skin, or the size of their bank account — has the opportunity to achieve their goals.