Study says education support on the rise

If you think your state, county or city doesn’t care about your higher education, think again.

According to a study released by the State Higher Education Executive Officers March 8, state and local support “per full-time equivalent student in public institutions” increased to $6,325 in fiscal 2006-a 5.1 percent jump from last year’s $6,017.

However, the study says that the higher education support per student ratio is still not the highest it’s ever been. In fiscal 2001, the support per FTE student reached its peak level at $7,371.

SHEEO measured the funding in constant dollars to take inflation into account, said Hans L’Orange, director of Data and Information Management at SHEEO. Besides the state and local appropriations, the numbers also include tuition revenue. All of these indicate how much is paid to get the education, he said.

“The [increase] is a positive statement of the value that both students and states put on education,” L’Orange said.

SHEEO’s report is not the only one that noticed an increase in the support for higher education at public institutions. The well-known “Grapevine” study at Illinois State University saw a 7.1 percent increase from fiscal year 2206-2007 nationwide, said James Palmer, the Grapevine editor.

“The year before, there was a 6 percent increase and the year before that, a 3.8 percent increase.we’ve kind of rebounded from the brief recession of 2001,” said Palmer. In fiscal year 2003-2004, state appropriations declined by 2.1 percent-the lowest decline since the study’s inception in 1961, he said.

Unlike SHEEO’s report, Grapevine only measures state tax appropriations. SHEEO’s report factors in funding from other state sources such as lotteries and the income states get from mineral rights.

Another part of SHEEO’s study looked at the correlation between the support and FTE enrollment within the last five years. According to the study, FTE enrollments increased by 14.8 percent while state and local support per FTE student fell by 14.2 percent on average.

Seven states, South Carolina, Nebraska, Nevada, Tennessee, New Mexico, Wyoming and Nevada were the only ones that had increases in support per FTE during that period.

However, the current net result, nationwide, is that there’s more money available. L’Orange attributes it to the fact that the revenue grew more quickly while the number of enrollment did not increase as quickly, he said. The FTE enrollment growth fell by 0.4 percent last year while the appropriations grew by 7.6 percent. The fact that the states are putting the extra funds that are available into education shows its importance, he said.

Both Palmer and SHEEO researchers believe the cause of the increase depends on the state of the economy, the politics, and the competition of scare resources such as healthcare, corrections and K-12 education.

Of course, each state is different from the others, he said.

He added that revenue rate has turned out greater than most people’s expectations.

SHEEO produces their report annually to provide lawmakers and educators insight into various aspects of education including which tuition levels are appropriate for higher education and “what financial assistance is necessary to provide meaningful educational opportunities to students from low- to moderate-income families,” the report says.

SHEEO also uses some of the “Grapevine’s” information to prepare its report.

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