Education

States Make Turnaround in Higher Ed Funding

A preliminary survey by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities finds 37 states boosted fiscal year 2014 support for public four-year institutions. View data for each state.
by | December 3, 2013
University of New Hampshire systems Chancellor Dr. Edward MacKay speaks during a forum. New Hampshire greatly increased funding for public colleges this year, after years of decline. AP/Jim Cole
 

After incurring some of the steepest cuts in recent state budgets, many states are beginning to route more funds back into higher education.

A preliminary survey by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) finds 37 states boosted fiscal year 2014 support for public four-year institutions, while only seven made cuts (see table below).

Topping the list of states recording year-over-year increases was New Hampshire, slated to raise funding for four-year public universities by 28.6 percent. The hike comes after the state slashed higher education funding considerably in recent budgets, including a 38 percent cut between fiscal years 2011 and 2013. Other states also making major increases in funding this year include Massachusetts (+16.8 percent) and Washington (+12 percent).

The 49 states participating in the AASCU survey reported an average year-over-year increase in public higher education funding of 3.5 percent, or 2.9 percent if New Hampshire’s large difference is excluded.

The recent increase for many states mirrors the ups and downs typical of economic recessions.

“Public higher education is often the balance wheel in states’ budgets,” said Daniel Hurley, director of state relations and policy analysis for AASCU. “They’re cut more in economic downturns, but often receive a greater increase when revenues are more robust.”

For some states, the additional money represents the first notable funding increase in years. Between fiscal years 2013 and 2011, total state higher education funding declined 4.9 percent, according to the annual Grapevine survey compiled by Illinois State University’s Center for the Study of Education Policy and the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.

By looking back further, though, the full extent of the hit state colleges and universities felt becomes more clear. From fiscal 2008 – right before most states’ revenues dipped – to fiscal 2013, total state higher education funding dropped 10.8 percent nationwide. Grapevine survey data shows that the reduction was particularly severe in some states, with 12 recording declines of more than 20 percent over the five-year period.

At the same time states cut funding in the aftermath of the recession, college enrollment swelled as students delayed entering the workforce and mid-career professionals went back to school. That trend is also starting to reverse, with recent census estimates revealing a record drop in college enrollment last year.

Hurley said he expects state higher education funding to continue to climb in fiscal year 2015.

Change in State Operating Support for Public Four-Year Schools

The following table shows year-over-year changes in state funding.

Figures represent approximations. New Mexico did not report FY14 data in the AASCU Survey.

FY13-FY14 Source: American Association of State Colleges and Universities survey

FY12-FY13 Source: Grapevine survey

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