The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) recently released its annual update on state higher education finance (interactive report here). This report provides a useful state-by-state comparison of funding of public higher education. Nationally, state and local appropriations to higher education increased, on average, 4.1% in 2016 from the prior year. The Utah Legislature appropriated a 4.3% budget increase to Utah’s public colleges and universities in the 2016 legislative session.
Funding for the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) primarily comes from two funding sources: tuition funds and state tax funds appropriated by the Utah Legislature. Other funding such as auxiliary revenues and research funds make up a small amount of higher education’s overall budget and are not typically part of these comparisons.
USHE’s 4-year institutions have the the 3rd lowest tuition and fees in the country, and the average tuition funds per full-time equivalent (FTE) student at a USHE institution is 14% below the national average. The state’s low tuition rates are due, in part, to recent increases in state appropriations by the Utah Legislature. According to the SHEEO report, USHE institutions rank 11th among states in the percentage increase in state appropriations per FTE student during 2010-2015. However, USHE institutions are still funded 18.9% less per FTE than before the recession.
USHE institutions also maintain comparatively low costs, ranking 45th in overall educational revenues per FTE, $1,824 less than the U.S. average. Overall, the total funds per FTE student in USHE is 9% below the national average.
The Take Away
What’s the take away with all of these figures? A combination of relatively low costs and low tuition rates make USHE institutions among the most efficient and affordable colleges and universities in the country. Such efficiency is only possible with the state’s continued support of public higher education, where eight out of 10 Utah high school students who go on to college decide to pursue their degree or certificate. Continued state support for USHE’s role is critical to serving the state’s future workforce and community needs.