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Posted at 5:48 PM ET, 03/ 8/2011

State higher-ed funding at record low

By Daniel de Vise

State funding to colleges and universities is at a historic low, according to a definitive annual report on higher education finance.

State and local governments spent $6,454 per college student in fiscal year 2010, the lowest level in at least 25 years in inflation-adjusted dollars, according to the annual report of the industry association State Higher Education Executive Officers.

Total state and local funding dwindled to $83.7 billion in 2010 from $88.9 billion in 2008. Federal stimulus funds raised the total to $88.5 billion. But college enrollments rose to a record high of 11.6 million at public institutions.

Universities are bridging the gap by raising tuition.

Tuition revenue rose to $4,321 per student in fiscal 2010, a record high in constant dollars and nearly double the rate of 1985, according to the report.

Put another way: Total tuition revenue has risen 200 percent in 25 years, in constant dollars. Total state and local funding has risen 31 percent in that span.

"Three findings stand out in SHEEO's studies of state higher education finance: unremitting enrollment growth, the difficulty states have recently experienced in keeping up with enrollment demand, and the growth of tuition and fees," said Paul Lingenfelter, president of the group.

Maryland spends more than the average state; Virginia spends less. Maryland spent $7,163 per student in 2010 in constant dollars, a slight decrease from 2009 but a 5 percent increase from 2005. Virginia spent $5,096 per student, a 12 percent decline from 2009 and a 9 percent decrease over five years.

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By Daniel de Vise  | March 8, 2011; 5:48 PM ET
Categories:  Finance  
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