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The Impact of the Great Recession on Public Colleges

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This interactive contains a correction.

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Public 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.

The information presented in this interactive is a state-by-state analysis of the pattern of direct investment in and enrollment at public colleges since the onset of the Great Recession in 2008. It presents data 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. In order to ensure that America continues to lead the way postsecondary education, our system of public universities and four-year colleges, community colleges, and vocational training centers need proper resources to adequately prepare the next generation of Americans to learn, work, and live in the 21st century.

Elizabeth Baylor is the Associate Director for Postsecondary Education at the Center. Antoinette Flores is a Policy Analyst on the Postsecondary Education Policy team at the Center.

Correction, October 28, 2014: This interactive incorrectly represented the amount of total state funding for 2012. The current version of the interactive contains the corrected numbers. 

Correction, November 26, 2014: This interactive incorrectly represented the change in enrollment for 2007 through 2012. The current version of the interactive contains the corrected numbers.

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