How higher ed funding has fared in all 50 states since the recession

Daily Briefing

How higher ed funding has fared in all 50 states since the recession

During the recession, states were forced to slash spending on higher education. And though many states have slowly been increasing higher education spending in tandem with the recovering economy, spending still hasn’t returned to pre-recession levels, according to a new report by the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).

According to the report, states spending on public two- and four-year public colleges was still $7 billion less (adjusted for inflation) during the 2017-18 academic year than it was in 2008. On average, states spent about 16% less per student.

And though four states—California, Hawaii, North Dakota, and Wyoming—spend more today on higher ed than they did in 2008, other states—like Arizona—currently spend just half of what they did in 2008.

Even more, the report suggests that upward progress has stalled in many states. While most states saw no changes in higher ed spending between the 2017-18 academic year, 31 states cut per-student funding during that period—some by as much as $1,939.

For public institutions that rely heavily on state funding to operate, decreased state spending has led to tough financial decisions. Many institutions have had to increase tuition and cut spending by eliminating course offerings and student support services.

CBPP researchers write that, adjusted for inflation, tuition today is roughly 36% higher than it was in 2008. “In 2008… average in-state tuition and fees at a public four-year institution accounted for 14% of a family’s median household income,” they note. But by 2017, that rose to 16.5%. And in eight states, it was more than 20%.

Though many low-income students are eligible for federal financial aid, rising tuition costs have led many of these students to undermatch or instead enroll in a for-profit institution. In fact, a similar study published by the American Federation of Teachers reports that “for every 10% reduction in state support for public higher education, for-profit enrollment increased by 1%.” Below, we’ve made a table of the percent change in all 50 states from 2008 to 2018.

Change in Spending per Student, 2008-2018
State Percent change
Arizona -55.7%
Louisiana -40.6%
Pennsylvania -37.3%
Oklahoma -37.3%
Alabama -34.6%
Mississippi -34.4%
New Mexico -34.0%
South Carolina -31.9%
Missouri -31.1%
New Hampshire -29.7%
Iowa -28.1%
Kentucky -27.2%
Delaware -26.2%
Kansas -26.0%
West Virginia -26.0%
New Jersey -23.5%
Wisconsin -22.8%
Texas -22.2%
Nevada -22.2%
Connecticut -20.2%
North Carolina -18.6%
Utah -18.5%
Idaho -18.2%
Ohio -18.1%
Michigan -16.7%
Virginia -16.5%
Vermont -15.8%
Washington -15.7%
Florida -13.0%
Arkansas -12.8%
Rhode Island -12.6%
Georgia -12.4%
Massachusetts -12.1%
Tennessee -10.8%
Colorado -9.2%
Oregon -8.9%
Minnesota -7.5%
South Dakota -6.2%
Alaska -6.0%
Maryland -3.5%
Maine -2.4%
New York -2.0%
Montana -1.9%
Indiana -1.2%
Nebraska -0.6%
California 0.3%
Hawaii 5.4%
Wyoming 7.8%
North Dakota 16.1%
Note: Data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Illinois has been excluded due to insufficient data.

Sources: Gunn, Pacific Standard, 10/4; Mitchell et. al, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 10/4.

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