Total and Per-Student State and Local Funding and Public Enrollment over Time

Changes in per-student funding are the result of changes in total funding levels and enrollment patterns. Between 2005-06 and 2010-11, total funding rose by 2%, from $75.6 billion (in 2015 dollars) to $77.3 billion. At the same time, enrollment increased by 19%, generating a 14% decline in per-student funding over these five years.

Figure 12B: Total and Per-Student State and Local Funding for Higher Education in 2015 Dollars and Public FTE Enrollment, 1985-86 to 2015-16

Figure 12B represents Total and Per-Student State and Local Funding for Higher Education in 2014 Dollars, and Public FTE Enrollment, 1985-86 to 2015-16. For a corresponding Section 508-compliant data table, download the Excel spreadsheet.

Notes & Sources 

NOTES: Because of the unavailability of data for 2015-16, all years of data exclude Illinois. Enrollment figures are fall FTE enrollments for public two-year and four-year institutions, excluding medical students. Tuition and fees reflect an FTE enrollment-weighted average of two-year and four-year prices. Funding is for both two-year and four-year institutions and includes tax revenues and other state and local funds for higher education, but not funding for capital expenditures.

SOURCES: College Board, Annual Survey of Colleges; NCES, Digest of Education Statistics 2016, Table 307.10; State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO), State Higher Education Finance (SHEF) reports; calculations by the authors.

  • Between 2010-11 and 2015-16, total funding fell by 2%. Combined with a 5% decline in enrollment, this generated a 3% increase in per-student funding over these five years.
  • In 2015-16, appropriations per student were 11% lower in inflation-adjusted dollars than a decade earlier, and 13% lower than 30 years earlier.