Humanities Indicators
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Funding & Research  >  State Funding for the Humanities
 
State Funding for Higher Education
(Updated November 2016)

Currently, no data exist on states’ commitment to the humanities departments of the nation’s postsecondary institutions. At best, indicators on this topic can describe state appropriations for higher education only generally, suggesting the type of environment in which humanities departments on the campuses of public colleges and universities must compete with other fields for funding.

Findings and Trends

  • State tax appropriations for all higher education, both public and independent, rose almost every year from 1965 to 1990 (Indicator IV-5a). Then, after a short period of decline, appropriations began rising again. By 2002, states were spending a record $94.1 billion (in 2015 dollars) on postsecondary education.[1]
  • From a spending peak in 2002, state spending dropped 10% by 2004. Spending increased again through 2008 but then fell 18% over the next five years. By 2013, state spending had fallen to a level last seen in the 1980s (slightly over $76 billion). Over the next two years, state investment ticked upward, with higher education funding reaching $81.8 billion in 2015.
  • While the Indicator IV-5a tracks state government expenditures for all higher education, both public and independent, Indicator IV-5b (see “Appropriations Map”) compares states by their state and local government spending—and for public higher education only.[2] The data, analyzed and presented by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO), reveals substantial differences among states in monetary commitment to public higher education. The average investment by states and their localities in public colleges and universities per full-time enrollment (FTE) was $6,996 in 2015; however, government investment ranged from $2,591 per FTE in New Hampshire to more than six times that amount ($17,300) in Wyoming.[3]California, whose public institutions of higher learning together have the highest number of FTEs in the nation (1.5 million), spent the most on higher education ($13.4 billion).
  • In all but a handful of states, appropriations for public higher education (including appropriations by local governments) were lower in 2015 than in 2008 (Indicator IV-5c). In 20 states, appropriations fell 20% or more. Louisiana and Alabama had the steepest declines, 38% and 41%. The median change among states was a 19% decline. Nationally, state/local investment in public higher education was 15% lower in 2015 than just before the recession.
IV-5a: State Funding for Higher Education (Public and Independent), Fiscal Years 1965–2015 (Adjusted for Inflation)

* For years 1965 to 1999, the amounts given are for higher education tax appropriations only, although several states fund their colleges and universities with other monies, such as cattle-grazing fees and lottery revenues. The amounts given for years 2000 to 2015 include these additional funds.
** Funds made available to states under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 (commonly known as the “Stimulus”). Although not apparent from the chart (due to the scale of the vertical axis), states received $125,538 million (2015 dollars) in ARRA funds for fiscal year 2012.

Source:For fiscal years 1965–1999: Illinois State University, College of Education, “Grapevine: Historical Data,” http://education.illinoisstate.edu/grapevine/historical/, accessed 6/3/2016. For fiscal years 2000–2015: State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, “State Higher Education Finance: FY 2015,” http://www.sheeo.org/projects/shef-—-state-higher-education-finance, accessed 6/3/2016. Funding figures were adjusted for inflation using the Commonfund Higher Education Price Index for fiscal year 2015.

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../cmsData/xls/IV-5a.xls../cmsData/ppt/IV-5a.ppt../cmsData/pdf/IV-5a.pdf
IV-5b: State Funding for Higher Education, by State, Fiscal Year 2015

Source: State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, State Higher Education Finance (SHEF) Project, “SHEF Interactive Data,” online data visualization (via Tableau Public), https://public.tableau.com/profile/sheeo#!/vizhome/SHEFInteractiveStateData_1/About, accessed 6/1/2016.

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IV-5c: Percentage Change Fiscal Years 2008–2015 in State and Local Funding for Public Higher Education, by State (Adjusted for Inflation)
Source: State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, State Higher Education Finance (SHEF) Project, “State-by-State Change Charts,” http://www.sheeo.org/sites/default/files/State_by_State_Change_Charts_FY15.xlsx, accessed 6/7/2016.
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Endnotes

[1] For years 1965 to 1999, the amounts given are for higher education tax appropriations only, although several states fund higher education with other monies, such as cattle-grazing fees and lottery revenues. The amounts given for years 2000 to 2015 include these additional funds.
[2] The totals for 2000–20015 exclude special-purpose, research, and medical appropriations.
[3] See the “Data Adjustments” tab of the visualization for information as to how the data were adjusted to facilitate meaningful interstate comparisons.