Access: the State of the States’ Contributions

March 11, 2011

Wednesday’s Inside Higher Education had a good news item on a recently released report from the SHEEOs, the State Higher Education Executive Officers.  The rep[ort gives an overview of where we are with public support of higher education through the states. Nut graf:

“But what SHEEO’s annual State Higher Education Finance report, released Tuesday, shows is not that states are so much pulling back on financial support for higher education, but that they are failing to keep up with rapidly expanding enrollments, and that lawmakers and public institutions have increasingly raised the price of tuition on students to cover the gap.”

About the same time, I received issue #224 of Post-Secondary Education Opportunity, a subscription-only newsletter put out by the remarkable Tom Mortenson, who is based in Oskaloosa, Iowa.  Issue #224 focuses on “State Fiscal Support of Higher Education, FY1961 to FY2011.”  The chart on the first page shows that overall state funding for higher education crested in 1976 at $10.58 per $1000 of personal income, and has declined since then fairly steadily to $6.30 per $1000 of personal income in 2011.

Yes, there’s some variation among the states, as Mortenson shows (a graph for every state!), but the overall pattern is quite pronounced.

So I’ll grant the SHEEOs are right that aggregate state spending hasn’t declined.  But it may be fair to say the states are “pulling back.”  Certainly they are not acting in ways that is likely to increase the percentage of Americans with a post secondary education degree. Nothing predicts likelihood of post secondary degree attainment as family income.  Lower income families need financial aid to make a college education possible.

I recommend a subscription to Mortenson’s newsletter.


About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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