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March 06, 2013 3:35 PM State Sources Now Provide Only Half of Public Higher Education Funding

By Daniel Luzer

Politicians like to talk about the importance of college, but state policymakers are spending less and less on higher education every year.

We’re about to reach a turning point in higher education, and not a very good one.

According to the latest report of the State Higher Education Executive Officers, tuition made up 47 percent of public colleges’ educational costs in 2012. Soon we’re about to be in a place where states provide less than half of the funding for America’s public colleges.

It’s a pretty rapid decline. In 1987, the report tuition revenue was for about a quarter of college revenue. A decade ago tuition accounted for about a third of college funding.

Average state and local per-pupil spending on higher education is now a mere $5,900 a year. That’s a 9 percent decline from 2011.

The big push among politicians lately, particularly Democrats, is to get more low-income Americans enrolled in and graduating from college. That’s just not going to happen as long as trends like these continue.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer