Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Urban Education


Anthony Picciano

Committee Members

Juan Battle

David Bloomfield

Matthew Goldstein

Subject Categories

Education | Higher Education


Public Higher Education, State Funding, California, Georgia, New York, Wisconsin


The rising cost of higher education in America is national news on a regular basis and many feel that as the costs increase the American dream of upward mobility slips further and further out of reach. Much of the research on higher education to date focuses on the quantifiable changes in support for public colleges and universities at the national or state levels, but less is written about individual state public higher education systems. This study provides a fifty-year, fifty-state history of funding for the operating costs of higher education and new information, from the four quadrants of the country, illustrating the impacts of state appropriations, access and cost of attendance on degree production.

This longitudinal study of four states’ public university systems – California State University (CSU), University System of Georgia (USG), City University of New York (CUNY), and University of Wisconsin System (UWS), over the period of 1990 to 2010, answers the following questions:

  1. Has access to higher education in each of the four states changed over the twenty-year span, both in aggregate and for specific minority groups (Blacks and Hispanics)?
  2. What variables best explain differences in degree production at each of the public higher education systems between 1990 and 2010? And to what extent is variance in degree production explained at the system level or institution? Three constructs: state support, access, and cost of attendance are used to answer these questions.

The most significant impact of the erosion of state funding for public higher education is the substantial shift from states providing operating funds for higher education to students and their families paying a large share of the costs. A comparative look at the four state systems found the split between state appropriations and tuition revenue narrowed significantly over the twenty years; specifically, the ratio of state appropriations to tuition revenue dropped 52% to 67% across the four systems. Additionally, degree production at each of the four systems was most affected by state appropriations, in-state tuition, state financial aid and Pell amounts awarded. Furthermore, the two systems (USG and CUNY) with funding agreements at the state level had greater increases in degrees per capita than the two other systems.

Data for this study was gathered from public documents and reports, available on each state system’s webpages, from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS - NCES), and from Grapevine, an annual compilation of data on state fiscal support for higher education collected by the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University and the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO).

The findings from this study cannot be used to generalize funding, enrollment and degrees awarded per capita in other states, but rather provide an analytical framework of historic support for public higher education and offers guidance for developing arguments to influence investments in postsecondary public education.