States Investing the Most in Higher Education

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1. Wyoming
> Annual higher ed. spending per student:
$17,300
> 5-yr. chg.: 18.3% (3rd largest increase)
> Total public college enrollment: 24,041 (3rd lowest)
> Tuition cost per student: $3,033 (2nd lowest)

No state spends more per full time student on public higher education institutions than Wyoming. Wyoming invests the equivalent of $17,300 per student, more than double the $6,966 national average. The high per-student spending is partially due to the very low number of students in the state. There are only 24,041 students enrolled full time at public universities in Wyoming, fewer than in every other state except for Alaska and Vermont.

2. Alaska
> Annual higher ed. spending per student:
$14,112
> 5-yr. chg.: 6.6% (8th largest increase)
> Total public college enrollment: 19,904 (the lowest)
> Tuition cost per student: $5,181 (14th lowest)

Public university spending has risen across the nation over the last few years. Alaska, however, is one of only a handful of states to cut its higher education spending last year. Despite the spending cut, the state’s per pupil expenditure of $14,112 trails only Wyoming. Also, unlike most states, higher education investment in Alaska is up from 2008. The high per pupil spending in Alaska is at least partially due to the extremely low number of students. At fewer than 20,000, total full-time enrollment in public Alaskan universities is the lowest of all states.

3. Illinois
> Annual higher ed. spending per student:
$11,518
> 5-yr. chg.: 32.5% (the largest increase)
> Total public college enrollment: 423,146 (5th highest)
> Tuition cost per student: $5,237 (15th lowest)

Over the last five years, per-pupil spending in the Illinois public university system shot up 32.5%, far more than in any other state, in contrast with the nationwide 2.4% decline in such spending. However, according to SHEEO, increased spending was driven by the state meeting its public university pension obligation, which in Illinois have been historically underfunded. Funding for the rest of the public higher education system has actually declined over the same time period.

4. North Carolina
> Annual higher ed. spending per student:
$8,894
> 5-yr. chg.: -1.7% (2nd smallest decrease)
> Total public college enrollment: 391,990 (7th highest)
> Tuition cost per student: $4,583 (9th lowest)

The majority of the 391,990 students that study in higher education public institutions in North Carolina are enrolled in the 166 universities that comprise the UNC system, including NC State. Today, the state spends 1.7% less per student than it did five years ago. Partially due to funding cuts, students at a public institution in North Carolina pay 52.0% more for tuition than they did five years ago. Despite the increase, students at public post-secondary institutions pay an average of $4,583 per year, one of the lowest in the country.

5. New York
> Annual higher ed. spending per student:
$8,830
> 5-yr. chg.: 2.1% (12th largest increase)
> Total public college enrollment: 567,465 (4th highest)
> Tuition cost per student: $5,073 (13th lowest)

There are more than half a million students enrolled in New York State’s public post-secondary education system, making it the fourth largest in the country. Through various forms of financial aid, as well as funding general facility operations, the state spends $8,830 annually per full-time student. The state’s spending on public education on a per pupil basis increased by 2.1% over the past five years, a departure from the nationwide trend of declining expenditures. Over that same time period, nationwide funding decreased 2.4%.