The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) serves the chief executives of statewide governing, policy, and coordinating boards of postsecondary education and their staffs. Founded in 1954, SHEEO promotes an environment that values higher education and its role in ensuring the equitable education of all Americans, regardless of race/ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic factors. Together with its members, SHEEO aims to achieve this vision by equipping state higher education executive officers and their staffs with the tools to effectively advance the value of higher education, promoting public policies and academic practices that enable all Americans to achieve success in the 21st century, and serving as an advocate for state higher education leadership. For more information, visit www.sheeo.org.Visit SHEEO
The State Higher Education Finance (SHEF) report examines the trends, context, and consequences of state higher education funding decisions.
Since 2003, SHEEO has produced the annual SHEF report to broaden understanding and enable analysis of state-level and national funding and enrollment trends over time. The SHEF report provides the earliest possible review of state funding for higher education for the most recently completed fiscal year. SHEF also includes a robust data set for fiscal years 1980-2020 with detailed data on state and local funding, tuition revenue, and enrollment, with interactive data visualization materials.
An early look at state support for 2021 is available through the Grapevine data compilation, a joint effort between SHEEO and the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University. For additional context regarding 2021 state funding, see the SHEEO Analysis of Fiscal Year 2021 State Funding for Higher Education.
In late 2018, SHEEO began a two-year grant-funded project to improve and expand the SHEF report. This project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Click here to learn more about the SHEF grant project.
SHEF data may be freely used with appropriate attribution and citation: State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. (2021). State Higher Education Finance: FY 2020.
The SHEF report was originally built on Dr. Kent Halstead’s State Profiles: Financing Public Higher Education, better known as the “Halstead Study.” Starting in the 1970s, Research Associates of Washington, headed by Halstead, produced a model of the principal factors governing state support of public higher education. Through the presentation of raw state data, indexed data, weighted state comparisons, and national overviews, Halstead sought to provide states with the capability to assess their support of public higher education. He analyzed state full-time equivalent (FTE), appropriations, and net tuition data, along with data gathered from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Department of Treasury, and the National Center for Education Statistics, and created tables displaying state support, tax capacity, tax effort, and family share of funding. His results were published in two volumes—the annual State Profiles: Financing Public Higher Education Rankings, and the companion trend data, State Profiles: Financing Public Higher Education Trend Data. Both were last published in 1998. Led by then-president Paul Lingenfelter, SHEEO resumed this endeavor in 2001. Like the Halstead studies, the SHEEO study:
- Analyzes state support for higher education, setting aside support in categories that vary widely among states (research, medical education, and agricultural extension services) to enable analysis on appropriations for instruction and public service in more comparable areas;
- Collects annual student FTE enrollment data to calculate more comparable estimates of state support per student;
- Examines state support for higher education in the context of a state’s capacity to raise revenue from taxation;
- Examines the relative contribution of students to the cost of public higher education; and
- Examines interstate differences in the cost of living and the enrollment mix among different types of institutions.
Additionally, SHEEO’s annual survey provides national summary information on:
- State support for the education of students attending independent colleges and universities (direct state grants to institutions, or financial aid to students);
- State support of higher education operations through non-tax revenue, including lottery proceeds, royalties from natural resources, and state-supported endowments;
- Trends in state support for research, medical education, and agricultural extension services; and
- State-supported student financial assistance.
The SHEF longitudinal dataset incorporates the original Halstead Study data for fiscal years 1980 to 2000 with SHEEO’s data from 2000 to the current year.
How To Use the Report
See our Frequently Asked Questions for additional information.
SHEF compiles national averages across each of our primary metrics (education appropriations, public student aid, net tuition revenue, student share, total education revenues).
National trends are adjusted for inflation over time and often presented on a per-full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment basis. Data for prior years are adjusted to represent the equal amount in today’s dollars. The raw unadjusted data is available for download.
The U.S. per-FTE averages are the sum of all revenue divided by the sum of all FTE enrollment, not simple averages of state per-FTE figures. For this reason, trends in the most populous states have a strong impact on the national metrics.
Many readers may look to interstate financial analysis and comparisons to determine “appropriate” or “sufficient” funding for higher education, but these decisions should always be made in the context of a state’s objectives and circumstances.
SHEF is a collection of 50 very different states. The state comparison section illustrates the variability across states and over time concerning the primary SHEF metrics. The states are shown relative to one another to provide context for the national trends.
Many factors affect the relative positions of states in their levels of funding for higher education.
Although no analysis can account for all of these factors, SHEF makes two adjustments to reflect differences in cost of living and enrollment levels at various institution types across the states. These adjustments tend to draw states closer to the national average; for example, states with a high cost of living also often support higher education at above average levels, and the cost of living index reduces the extent of their above average revenue per student.
Data Uses and Cautions
The SHEF report seeks to provide reliable data and methods to examine state funding for higher education. While making finance data cleaner, consistent, and more comparable, SHEF’s analytic methods also add complexity. Readers should be cognizant of inherent limitations.
- Comparing states is a difficult task. States vary in climate, energy costs, housing costs, population densities, growth rates, areas of poverty, resource bases, and the mix of industries driving their local economies. Additionally, the extent and rate at which these factors are changing vary across states.
- State higher education systems differ. Differences in the number and size of institutions, the proportion of students attending independent institutions, and varying combinations of institutional types add complexity to the data.
- In addition to these differences, technical factors can distort interstate comparisons. For example, states differ in how they finance employee retirement. Some pay all retirement costs to employee accounts when the benefits are earned, while others defer part of the costs until the benefits are paid. Some pay benefit costs through a state agency, while others pay from institutional budgets.
Illinois State University releases annual tables with initial allocations and estimates of state support for higher education in the current/upcoming fiscal year.
The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Finance Survey provides annual data on institution-level revenues and expenditures.
The National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs (NASSGAP) produces an annual survey of state-funded postsecondary student financial aid recipients and expenditures.
The College Board publishes an annual analysis of tuition rates and net price in postsecondary education.
The National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO) produces an annual report examining spending across the functional areas of state budgets.