State Spending on Higher Education in CT
A recent Inside Higher Education article states that “Between the 2015 and 2016 fiscal years, 39 states reported increases in state funding, while only nine reported decreases,” according to the Grapevine report. The report found that Connecticut’s support for higher education increased by just over 11% over the past 5 years (a number that includes stimulus funds).
Where is that $1,195,472,274 actually going? The proposed 2016 budget allocates $163,171,028 (up from $ 155,605,363 in 2015) to the community and technical colleges (of which there are twelve). The CSU system – comprised of the four regional state universities – is set to receive $159,309,488 (up from $155,564,671 authorized for the 2015 budget), while the state’s online college, Charter Oak State College, will receive $2,733,385 (down from 2,588,604). The current budget also allocates $886,560,783 (up from $826,143,475) for the University of Connecticut, the state’s flagship campus. Enrollment at UConn in 2014 was 26,874, while enrollment at the four CSUs was 27,735, and 31,890 were enrolled across the twelve community colleges.
An 11% increase sounds good, but the amount of money spent per full-time enrolled student (FTE) has decreased by almost 22% since 2009, according to a report from 2014 Connecticut Higher Education System Data and Trends Report. In 2008, state spending per FTE was just over $9,700 but in 2014 was just over $7000. Of course, when state funding goes down, tuition goes up; according to the report Tuition and Fees by Sector and State over Time, average tuition and fees at the four Connecticut state universities and UConn was “$11,397” versus just over $6000 in 2004 (adjusted for inflation). Community college students have seen a similar increase in tuition and fees, from just over $2000 in 2004 to just over $4000 in 2015. Just as tuition goes up when state funding falls, student debt also increases; according to a report in the Hartford Courant, “the average Connecticut resident with outstanding student loans owes $24,810.” The Harford Courant reported in 2014 that on average graduates of UConn spend approximately $247 per month repaying student loans; at the four CSUs, that number is $203, while at the community colleges it is $61. The average default rate for graduates from the CSUs is 7.75%; for UConn graduates, that default rate hovers around 3%, and for the community colleges it hovers just over 10% (some community college graduates default at nearly 20%). In that context, the 11% increase seems not as robust.