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Public Colleges Post Record-Low Tuition Revenue

College text in torn dollar bill
Paper headline with College text in torn dollar bill | Image by zimmytws/Shutterstock

Between inflation and a dip in enrollment figures, public colleges and universities nationwide logged record-low net tuition revenue last year.

A report from the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, a nonprofit specializing in public policy, released earlier this month showed that the net tuition revenue decreased by 3.3% — or $7,353 per full-time student. Meanwhile, student enrollment fell by 0.5%, marking two consecutive years of sharp single-year drops — the largest logged since 1980.

Although federal stimulus funding lowered by approximately 25%, education appropriations increased by 3.7%, thanks largely to state taxpayer dollars. Total higher education revenue climbed by 0.8% to a record high of $18,301 per full-time student.

Tuition fees have been soaring, sparking, for instance, a freeze for in-state undergraduate students at Texas A&M last year, as covered previously in The Dallas Express. While this freeze will last through the next academic year, the board of regents has allowed an increase in graduate and out-of-state undergraduate tuition of up to 5.2% in response to inflation.

In Texas, a total of $11.9 billion state and local taxpayer dollars went towards higher education, making it the third largest general fund budget category, per the report. The net tuition revenue per full-time student in Texas was $7,247 in 2023 — roughly the same as the national average. This is a 5.1% decrease since 2019.

Over 1 million full-time students were enrolled in Texas public higher education institutions in 2023, the second-highest net enrollment figure in the United States excluding medical students. Beating out the national average by several percentage points, 43% of Texas enrollees attend two-year public higher education institutions.

The shares of state and local funding sources also differ in the Lone Star State compared to the national average. While tax appropriations cover 82.8% of higher education funding, this share is only 55.3% in Texas. Local funding covers 21.2%, “other support” accounts for 12%, endowments amount to 10.9%, and non-tax sources comprise 0.6% in Texas.

The vast majority (74.6%) of funds went towards public colleges and universities’ general operations, mirroring the share allocated towards these expenses nationwide. Yet an above-average proportion (19.9%) of funds was directed towards research, agriculture, and medical purposes.

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