Decreased state funding for higher ed resulting in higher costs for students, increased inequality

October 31, 2019

Rising tuition and worsened racial and class inequality are two of the effects of decreasing state support for higher education, according to a recent report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  In it the authors detail how overall state funding for public two- and four-year colleges has not fully recovered in most states following the recession, leaving higher costs and reduced services in many cases. Today’s cohort of students are more racially and economically diverse than previous cohorts, and tuition rates, which have risen faster than median income, increase the cost burden of attending college and could deter low-income students and students of color, who have traditionally faced greater barriers to entry, from attending. Lower attendance can in turn threaten the outlook for communities and states, which increasingly rely on an educated workforce to grow and thrive, the report asserts.

After adjusting for inflation, the report found that between 2008-2018 41 states spent less per student and on average, states spend 13 percent less per student. Per-student funding fell by more than 30 percent in six states: Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania. The authors found that between school years 2017 to 2018, 27 states spent less per student and 15 of those had also seen levels drop in the previous year. While 23 states did spend more, overall, per-student funding essentially remained flat.

To build a more robust economy that works for more people, the authors say lawmakers will need to increase funding for higher education institutions, bolster need-based programs and focus additional state funds on building the capacity of colleges with the fewest resources. Pursuing policies that will help more students pursue affordable postsecondary education will help build a stronger middle class and develop entrepreneurs and skilled workers, they contend.

higher ed, tuition, funding