How are American states funding public colleges and universities, ten years after the great financial crisis? The progressive Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) just published a report with new data that addresses this head on (pdf).
tl;dr version – the Great Recession was brutal. State funding is still below pre-recession levels. A few states have recovered; most have not; some are seriously worse.
Here I’ll pull out some of the findings that really struck me.
How far below 2008 are we? “State spending on higher education at two- and four-year public colleges nationwide fell $1,409 per student, or 16 percent, after adjusting for inflation.” In other words. the 2008 financial disaster and the slow, weak recovery that followed truly hit American higher ed hard, and we’re still not back to where we were beforehand.
Here’s how that support shortfall breaks down by state:
There are some clear variations by individual states. An interesting quartet is now ahead of 2008: California, Hawaii, North Dakota, and Wyoming. (The latter two must be buoyed by oil tax revenues, even now) In contrast,
Per-student funding in nine states — Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina — fell by more than 30 percent over this period.
Some red states are truly in the red zone (sorry) here.
To account for these drops in funding, many universities and colleges have raised tuition. “[A]verage annual published tuition has risen by $2,651 nationally, or 36 percent” since 2008. CBPP also broke down those increases by state:
Notice this underappreciated fact. After every modern recession students’ share of paying for public tuition has gone up – and usually stayed up, until the next recession:
So perhaps we’re not looking at a long-term crisis response, but at a new normal made possible by 2008.
This is why I spent so much time and space writing about the crash and the decade that followed last month.
I probably don’t need to tell you why and how this is bad for students. (You can read the report for a breakdown.) The report urges states to rebuild support; I think this is going to be very hard to do.
Go on and read the report. Very useful stuff.