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Higher Ed Funding Cuts, State by State

With state legislative sessions beginning across the country, it’s a good time to remind lawmakers that funding for public two- and four-year colleges remains well below pre-recession levels in almost every state, as our fact sheets show.  (Here, for example, is our fact sheet for Alabama.)

And as higher education funding has fallen, tuition has risen – in many cases, dramatically.  In some states, funding cuts have forced reductions in campus staff, student support services, and course offerings.

Our 2015 paper explained that, between the 2007-08 and 2014-15 school years (after adjusting for inflation):

  • Forty-seven states cut spending per student — all except Alaska, North Dakota, and Wyoming.
  • The cuts were significant in most states.  Average state spending per student fell $1,805, or 20 percent.
  • Students’ costs rose significantly.  Annual tuition at four-year public colleges rose by $2,068, or 29 percent.

There is some good news, however.  Between fiscal years 2014 and 2015, 37 states raised per-student funding, by an average of nearly 4 percent, after adjusting for inflation; perhaps not coincidentally, average tuition at four-year colleges rose a mere 1.2 percent.

To continue reinvesting in higher education, states need to make smart budget and tax decisions, such as rejecting calls for costly tax cuts (see here, here, and here for examples).