Increases in State Higher Education Funding Smallest in Five Years

By Allie Bidwell, Communications Staff

State funding for higher education increased by only a modest amount in the last year, according to data collected as part of an annual survey on annual changes in state fiscal support for higher education.

Between fiscal years 2016-17 and 2017-18, average state funding for higher education increased by 1.6 percent, the survey found — the smallest increase in the last five years. The data was collected for the annual "Grapevine" survey, conducted by the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University and the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO).

What's more, nearly all of the increase in the last year was accounted for by increases in just three states: California, Florida, and Georgia. When those states are excluded, state funding increased by just 0.2 percent.

Source: Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University, and SHEEO.

Year-over-year changes in funding for higher education also varied widely between states. Overall, 30 states reported increases between FY 2017 and FY 2018. Of those, 12 states reported increases of less than 2 percent (with a low of 0.2 percent in Kentucky and a high of 1.9 percent in New York), and 18 reported increases of more than 2 percent (with a low of 2.1 percent in Michigan to a high of 11.3 percent in Florida).

Still, 19 states reported decreases in funding for higher education in the last year. While some were relatively small decreases — such as -0.1 percent in Ohio, -0.6 percent in Kansas, and -0.8 percent in Kentucky — other states reported substantial decreases of more than 2 percent. Mississippi, for example, reported a one-year decrease of 11.2 percent, while North Dakota reported a decrease of 14.6 percent.

From a longer term perspective, state funding for higher education nationwide has generally increased. Overall, the two-year change from FY 2016 to FY 2018 was an increase of 5.9 percent. However, the survey noted that the two-year increase "is skewed by the anomalous" 30.2 percent increase in Illinois to make up for low funding levels during the state's recent budget turmoil.

The five-year change — between FY 2013 and FY 2018 — was 20.7 percent. Most states reported overall increases between 2013 and 2018, but in 10 states, funding for higher education is lower than in 2013. In some states — such as Alaska, West Virginia, and Oklahoma — funding for higher education in 2018 is more than 12 percent lower than in 2013, the survey found.

Still, the data collected in the Grapevine survey give just a preliminary look at state higher education funding for the new fiscal year, and things could change. SHEEO's State Higher Education Finance report, typically released in the spring after the conclusion of each fiscal year, gives a more complete picture of state funding for higher education.


Publication Date: 1/24/2018

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