The Great Recession and Public Colleges

Public investment in higher education is vital to the performance of our economy, explain the authors.

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idea light bulbPublic investment in higher education is vital to the performance of our economy. Throughout the second half of the 20th century, the country invested heavily in postsecondary education—and it paid off, resulting in significant increases in the share of high school graduates going to college. However, after making great strides for decades, the country has begun to lose ground. College costs have skyrocketed. Between 2008 and 2012, the share of students borrowing to finance their education increased from 35 percent to 40 percent, and the average amount borrowed annually increased from $6,200 to $7,800.

We have measured the direct state investment in and enrollment at public universities and community colleges since the Great Recession. Information about each state is presented to support the need for a restored state-federal partnership in postsecondary education to ensure that high-quality programs remain affordable and a central tenant of the American Dream.

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