The economic disaster of the past decade has clearly taken its toll on higher education, as states have trimmed funding for colleges and universities by an average of 17% since 2008, according to a recent study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a research and policy institute.
The situation was worse a year ago. Since then, the study indicated, 38 states have restored some of the lost funding, by an average of 4%. However, the cuts in some states have been pretty deep. Arizona slashed hi-ed funding by 55.6%, while Louisiana, South Carolina, Alabama, and Pennsylvania all reduced postsecondary spending by more than a third. Thirty-one other states enacted double-digit cutbacks.
Translated into hard dollars, the drop in funding amounts to $1,525 per student on average. That ranges from $103 per student in Alaska to $4,602 per student in Louisiana.
Four states did boost their higher education budgets during this time, including North Dakota, where the booming economy allowed the state to pump 46% more into postsecondary schooling, about $3,823 per student. In Wyoming, where higher education has been subsidized to a greater extent than in many other states, the 21% increase in funding represented $3,025 per student.
The report noted that institutions have answered the funding cuts by eliminating programs, services, and staff. Schools have also raised tuition, from 4.8% in Montana up to Arizona’s 87.8%. (Percentages are for the average tuition actually paid by students, not the maximum “published” tuition fee.)
The study found the rise in tuition, in turn, caused more students to assume more debt, forced some students to drop out, and deterred others from enrolling.