Per-Student Spending Drops to 25-Year Low
As colleges and universities across the country are tightening their belts in the wake of the sequester, a new report has found that per-student funding at public colleges and universities had already fallen to its lowest level in over 25 years due to state budget cuts, and warns that the American higher-educational system is quickly losing its dominance in face of international competition.
The report comes from the State Higher Education Excecutive Officers (SHEEO), which found that public universities and colleges saw their local and state funding drop by 7% last year, having already dropped 9% the previous year.
Although enrollment has also decreased due to high costs of tuition, per-student funding has continued to drop, leaving the average amount spent per student to be only $5,896 per year, the lowest level ever seen by the SHEEO since it began tracking spending 25 years ago.
Additionally, almost half of the costs of school are now shouldered by students and their families themselves through tuition rather than state or federal funding. This share of the financial load is more than twice the amount it was 25 years ago as well.
“Students are paying more, while public institutions are receiving substantially less money to educate them,” said SHEEO President Paul Lingenfelter.
Lingenfelter went on to say that the cuts in spending and increases in tuition were the largest he had seen in the entirety of his 41-year career in higher education, and blamed last year’s dip in enrollment on the drastic increase on student financial burden. The total amount of tuition spent by students has grown from $41 billion in 2008 to $60 billion in 2012.
“Other countries are rapidly improving the postsecondary education of their citizens,” said Marshall Hill, director of the Nebraska Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education and chairman of SHEEO’s executive committee. “If the United States falls further behind in either quality or the number of students who enroll and graduate it will not be easy to catch up.”