Last year, states spent over $83 billion on public higher education, or about $7,600 per student enrolled full-time in a public college or university.
Since the early 20th century, every state in the country has required public school systems to provide free K-12 education for its students. When it comes to higher education, states have different priorities. While some spend more than $15,000 per student to ensure in-state students can get a college education, others spend less than $3,000.
To fund higher education, states must include provisions in their tax policy and budgets to determine where the money is coming from and how it is spent — on financial aid, administrative support, and so on. The needs of the population and the political climate play a role in these decisions. Many states with high spending per student tend to spend more to fund public postsecondary institutions and charge less in tuition, while other states have adopted a model similar to private institutions — less public funding and higher tuition. To identify the states spending the most and least on higher education, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed per-student public higher education spending from The State Higher Education Executive Officers’ report, “State Higher Education Finance: FY 2017.”
Andy Carlson, vice president of finance policy and member services at SHEEO, the national governing body of state higher education bodies, told 24/7 Wall St. that states are increasingly taking spending on higher education seriously, largely because projected advances in technology make it increasingly important. “Having a high school diploma is not going to be sufficient in getting a middle-class existence and holding down a job that lets you support a family.”