May 26, 2021
Despite eight years of state funding increases, higher education institutions had historically low state support heading into the pandemic-induced recession, according to an annual report from the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.
State appropriations per full-time-equivalent student increased 2.9% in fiscal 2020 when adjusted for inflation and including $428 million in federal relief funding, SHEEO found.
But the organization’s early estimates show funding for public colleges is expected to decline in most states in fiscal 2021.
Higher ed appropriations per FTE student increased in 41 states and Washington, D.C. in fiscal 2020. Despite a steady increase in state support, inflation-adjusted appropriations are still 6% below levels seen in 2008.
States have been recovering at different rates. Eighteen states had higher ed appropriations in 2020 that were at or above their 2008 levels, up from nine the year before.
But in 12 states, public support for colleges lags the amount they had during the Great Recession by at least 20%. That includes Arizona, where appropriations have dropped nearly 43% since 2008, and Oklahoma, where they have fallen almost 39%.
The current economic downturn risks undoing some of the progress states have made in funding public colleges, the SHEEO report argued. However, federal coronavirus relief helped states maintain their higher ed support in fiscal 2021, according to a separate report from Illinois State University’s Center for the Study of Education Policy in March.