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off the charts

The Deep Hole in Higher Ed Funding

“Many state governments have begun to boost higher-education budgets,” the Wall Street Journal reports today.  That’s welcome news, but as the striking chart below (from our recent report) shows, those increases follow several years of severe cuts.

  • States are spending $2,353 or 28 percent less per student on higher education, nationwide, in the current 2013 fiscal year than they did in 2008, when the recession hit.
  • Every state except for North Dakota and Wyoming is spending less per student on higher education than they did before the recession.
  • Eleven states have cut funding by more than one-third per student, and two states — Arizona and New Hampshire — have cut their higher education spending per student in half.

Moreover, as the Journal notes, states like Kansas and North Carolina are considering more cuts in higher ed funding.  That’s particularly troubling given that both states are also seriously considering costly income tax cuts, as we explain here and here.

A large and growing share of future jobs will require college-educated workers.  Investing in higher education to keep tuition reasonable and quality high at public colleges and universities, and to provide financial aid and other supports like counseling and career guidance to students who need it most, would help states to develop the skilled workforce they will need to fill these jobs.  That’s a better strategy than tax cuts to strengthen state economies.