This study examines trends in state funding and tuition revenue in higher education over the past four decades and updates our past research on the subject using the latest data.

Key points

  • From 1980 to 2021, state funding has increased by $19 to $54 per student per year. This sustained increase in funding indicates that “state disinvestment” is a myth.
  • State funding has completely recovered from the cuts made during the Great Recession and did not fall during the pandemic.
  • From 1980 to 2021, tuition revenue increased by $132 to $148 per student per year. However, this historical pattern may be over as tuition revenue has been trending down for the past three years.
  • Inflation-adjusted total educational/instructional revenue increased substantially over time, reaching $15,959 per student in 2021 (the second highest ever recorded).
  • The statistical relationship between changes in state funding and changes in tuition is quite weak, providing little support for the argument that tuition is rising to make up for cuts in state funding.