Tag Archives: SUNY

Public Higher Education: Census of Governments Employment and Payroll Data for 2017

The big issue in higher education, or at least the one that has been pushed in the media, is the burden of student loans.  And the explanation for this crisis that has been advanced is the rising cost of college.  According to sources deemed reliable, while tuition has soared in private colleges and universities due to an amenities arms race and a better deal for faculty, in public higher education unwilling taxpayers are to blame.

https://hbr.org/2019/09/what-will-it-take-to-solve-the-student-loan-crisis

The roots of rising college and university costs are not difficult to identify. For the nation’s 1,600-plus public institutions, the chief culprit has been major reductions in state support; public investment in higher education has been in retreat in the states since about 1980, according to the American Council on Education. State funding and subsidies were cut by more than $7 billion between 2008 and 2018. What many call the “privatization of public higher education” has shifted most of the states’ share of instructional costs to students and their families, with disruptive results for both students and institutions.

Here is another “study” saying the same thing.

Click to access RB_512HJRB.pdf

I once believed it, but when whenever I looked at the available Census Bureau data on higher education finances, it didn’t fully support it. With the availability of state and local government employment and payroll data for the 2017 Census of Governments, I took another look.

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Education: Census Bureau Government Finances Data for FY 2004 and FY 2014

For the United States and most parts of it, the decade from FY 2004 to FY 2014 saw soaring public employee retirement costs, and weak growth for taxpayer income. In response to these trends state government assistance for public elementary and secondary schools fell relative to the income of all state residents, and total spending on public schools fell as a share of everyone’s income as well. But there was an offsetting factor. School enrollment fell as a share of the total population, and in many cases in absolute numbers, as the very large “Baby Boom Echo (Gen Y, Millennials) Generation exited school with smaller generations behind them.

At the same time, and perhaps driven by the same demographic shifts, state and local government spending on public higher education increased when measured per $1,000 of everyone’s personal income. But how did different states compare, and how was per-student elementary and secondary school spending affected? That is the subject of this post.

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State Government Higher Education Expenditures: Census of Governments Data

The news media has reported that more and more students are priced out of college or going deep in debt to pay for it, diminishing their prospects for the rest of their lives. Higher education debts have been blamed for constricted career choices and deferred homeownership, marriage and parenting. Based on that reporting, the story I had prepared to tell was that soaring tuition at private colleges may be explained by an arms race for extraneous amenities, extra administrators and increasingly cosseted faculty. But in public higher education, which accounted for 73.1% of higher education enrollment in 2012, cutbacks in taxpayer subsidies are the greater factor.

This is the story told by the public colleges and universities themselves. According to a recent report from Demos cited here,

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/government-cuts-to-blame-for-skyrocketing-tuition-says-report-2015-05-05

“Cuts to higher education funding by state governments accounted for 79% of tuition increases at public research universities between 2001 and 2011 and 78% of the growth in college costs at public bachelor’s and master’s universities.” “Some have argued that universities’ penchant for hiring more administrators and constructing more buildings are the primary culprits behind skyrocketing tuition” according to this source. “While this so-called administrative bloat is an issue worth some attention, the report argues that it hasn’t played as large a role in tuition hikes as state funding cuts or the rising cost of health care for university employees.”

The data is a bit more complicated.

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