Higher Education Funding Trends

Jan 22, 2014

State funding for colleges and universities appears to be rebounding across the nation. Illinois State University Professor Jim Palmer says his annual survey shows state legislatures spent nearly 6% more on higher education last year. Palmer says these funding swings tend to track recessions and the economy fairly closely.

Credit WNIJ

Palmer says education is an easy target for lawmakers in tough times because it's discretionary in ways that healthcare and prisons are not. And until recently, Palmer says Higher Ed institutions could raise some of their own revenue through tuition hikes. But, he says funding in 35 states is still below where it was for Colleges and Universities five years ago.

Palmer says Illinois's one year jump of nearly 15% is misleading, because most of that has gone to pension payments and not operations.

The survey does not account for inflation. Palmer says scholarship is mixed whether higher education funding has ever recovered from pre-recession levels in the last forty years, after inflation is factored in.