Public Universities Face More Students, Less State Funding

Although full-time enrollment in public colleges and universities is increasing, state and local support for these institutions has been slowly decreasing since the beginning of the recession, according to a new report by the association of State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO).

In the 2007-2008 academic year, or the start of the recession, postsecondary institutions received $88.8 billion through state and local support. During this year, 10.3 million students enrolled in public institutions full time, according to the SHEEO report. Largely due to the detrimental effects of the recession, state and local support for higher education fell to $81.2 billion in 2012, marking a 7% decrease from 2011. At the same time, more students enrolled in college. In 2012, a total of 11.5 million full-time students attended public universities.

Due to increased enrollments and decreased funding, last year, state and local support amounted to only $5,896 per student, the lowest level SHEEO has noted in 25 years.

Colleges are striving to make up for the lack of state and local funding by increasing tuition, but the report shows that this is only providing minimal aid. When adjusting for inflation, the total education revenue per student (which includes the net tuition revenue plus state and local funding) has dropped by 8% since 2008.

"The depth of the 2008 recession and the economy's slow recovery are reflected in the funding, enrollment and net tuition numbers for 2012," said Paul Lingenfelter, president of SHEEO. "Tuition revenues are up substantially due to higher prices and more enrollments, but not enough to offset losses of public funding. Students are paying more, while public institutions are receiving substantially less money to educate them."


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