The Declining State Commitment to Higher Education and Its Consequences

The Pell Institute has published a 45-year-trend analysis of higher educational opportunity in this country. There’s plenty of interest in the report, but here’s the two trends that really jump out at you:

In 2012 college costs were 2.3 times higher than in 1975 (in constant 2012 dollars)….

State and local sources accounted for 57 percent of higher education revenues in 1977, but just 39 percent in 2012. Conversely, students and parents contributed about 33 percent of the revenue in 1977, but 49 percent in 2012. The share of higher education revenues provided by the federal government was about the same in 2012 as in 1980 (12 percent). The shift in payment sources from state and local governments to students and parents has occurred at the same time that costs have risen dramatically and in a period where average wages have been static or declined in constant dollars.

There you have it. And while local governments are significant contributors to higher education finance here or there, this is really a story of state government receding from its traditional higher ed commitments at the worst possible time.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.