The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday March 28th

View from the Hill

Takeaways from higher education finance

A new report by the State Higher Education Officers Association showed the state of the nation's public education systems and how budget cuts have affected higher education.

  • Budget cuts have been going on nationwide: In 2007-2008, total state and local support for higher education was $88.8 billion for 10.3 million full-time equivalent students. Total education revenue dropped by 6.2 percent since then, and spending has fallen to $78.8 million for 11.3 million full-time equivalent students. The report said increased enrollment is natural during economic recessions — but the increase shows that higher education institutions are having to handle more students with less resources, which could cause a strain on budgets.
  • There has been a slight uptick in spending: The report states 2012 might have been the worst year for state support to higher education. Higher education institutions took in $140.9 billion in revenue in 2012, and $143 billion in 2013. Enrollment decreased by 0.5 percent in 2012, which grew to 2.4 percent in 2013.
  • North Carolina has seen a decline in state spending but not as much as others: The national spending per full-time-enrollment-equivalent student dropped by 23 percent in five years. North Carolina's decrease was not as high, with only an 18.9 percent drop in the same period of time. Still, the UNC system has seen nearly half a billion dollars erased from state funding since 2011, with $65 million in cuts in the most recent state budget.
  • Tuition is becoming a bigger part of revenue: In the five-year period tracked by the report, tuition was 47 percent of revenue for total public higher education. In North Carolina, this number was 24.1 percent. The N.C. General Assembly enacted a hefty tuition increase for out-of-state students this past summer, which was 12.3 percent at UNC-CH. UNC-system President Tom Ross called for an in-state tuition freeze this year. The report did not take into account support like Pell Grants.

The report largely showed what has been known for years — that during the recession, states have seen deep budget cuts despite increased enrollment. Similarly, North Carolina has fared slightly better than the average state but it has still seen cuts. While last year saw a small overall increase in support nationally, it remains to be seen if this will stick.

View from the Hill is a political blog by Daily Tar Heel staff writers. Any opinion expressed in it does not represent the Daily Tar Heel. Email the blog coordinator at

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