A decade since the Great Recession hit, state spending on public colleges and universities remains well below historic levels, despite recent increases. Overall state funding for public two- and four-year colleges in the 2017 school year (that is, the school year ending in 2017) was nearly $9 billion below its 2008 level, after adjusting for inflation. (See Figure 1.) The funding decline has contributed to higher tuition and reduced quality on campuses as colleges have had to balance budgets by reducing faculty, limiting course offerings, and in some cases closing campuses. At a time when the benefit of a college education has never been greater, state policymakers have made going to college less affordable and less accessible to the students most in need.
As states have slashed higher education funding, the price of attending public colleges has risen significantly faster than what families can afford. For the average student, increases in federal student aid and the availability of tax credits have not kept up, jeopardizing the ability of many to afford the college education that is key to their long-term financial success.
With many states facing revenue shortfalls in the current or upcoming fiscal year, state lawmakers must renew their commitment to high-quality, affordable public higher education by increasing the revenue these schools receive. By doing so, they can help build a stronger middle class and develop the entrepreneurs and skilled workers needed for a strong state economy.