State Report Cards Project Finds Low Investment in Higher Education and Rising Gap in Achievement

For the third year in a row, Young Invincibles, a national organization working to engage young adults on issues such as higher education, health care, and jobs, has released a state-by-state report card on state commitments to higher education, finding major disinvestment by states and a growing gap in degree attainment between the white population and that of blacks and Latinos.

According to the report, “states have cut per student spending by 21 percent between fiscal years 2008 through 2014. While many states have begun to reinvest in the past few years, only two states spend as much as they did before the recession.” Louisiana spent 41% less on higher education per student in 2014 than it did in 2008, topping the list.  State disinvestment, coupled with increasing tuition at colleges, has caused an increase in the portion of tuition that students and families pay — in Vermont and New Hampshire, students pay more than 80%, and the average has gone from students paying 36% in 2008 to 50% in 2014.

The report cards give each state a grade from A to F based on the average grade on six distinct criteria: tuition, spending per student, burden on families, state aid to students, education as a state priority, and attainment equity.

Key findings include:

  • Slashed budgets: Forty-eight states spend less per student on higher education than they did prior to the recession (all but Alaska and North Dakota).
  • Skyrocketing tuition: Tuition is up $1,868, or 28 percent, since 2008 – that’s over twice the rate of inflation.
  • Racial inequality: 18 states failed the group’s new measure of racial attainment equity. Nationally between 2007 and 2015, the higher education attainment gap between white non-Hispanic adults and Latinos grew by 2.2 percentage points, and the gap for African Americans widened by 0.4 points.
  • Failures: 21 states received an overall grade of F. This number of failing states is up from 11 last year.

Only one state, Wyoming, received a grade of A.  Alaska, Kentucky, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, and Washington received a grade of B.  C grades went to Arkansas, California, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.  Ten states received a grade of D: Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.  The failing states are Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Vermont.

The group has also produced a useful interactive map that indicates the results state by state.

According to the report, the ten states with the largest cuts to higher education since 2008 are: Louisiana -41%; Alabama -39%; Pennsylvania -37%; South Carolina -36%; Arizona -36%; Idaho -33%; New Hampshire -33%; Florida -32%; Nevada -31%; and Oregon -29%.  The ten states with the smallest cuts to higher education since 2008 are: North Dakota +38%; Alaska +6%; Indiana -4%; New York -5%; Montana -5%; Wyoming -5%; Nebraska -6%; Arkansas -6%; Illinois -9%; and Vermont -11%.

The ten states with the highest tuition hikes since 2008 are: Arizona 72%; Georgia 68%; Louisiana 66%; California 56%; Washington 56%; Hawaii 54%; Florida 53%; Colorado 51%; Alabama 46%; and North Carolina 40%.  The lowest tuition hikes were found in Missouri 7%; Maine 8%; Montana 9%; Maryland 9%; Ohio 10%; New Jersey 12%; Iowa 13%; Oklahoma 13%; North Dakota 14%; and Nebraska 15%.

New in 2016, the report graded states on “Attainment Equity”, measuring the gap in the postsecondary degree attainment rate between white non-Hispanics and two demographics, African Americans and Latinos.  Disturbingly, the report states, “the gap between white non-Hispanic adults and Latino adults with postsecondary degrees grew by 2.2 percentage points between 2007 and 2015. Similarly, the attainment gap between white non-Hispanic adults and African American or black adults widened by 0.4 percentage points between 2007 and 2015.”

“This is not to say,” the report adds, “that fewer African Americans or Latinos earned postsecondary degrees; the rate has gone up for both groups. However, the attainment rate for white adults has grown at a faster rate, causing the gap to increase.”  In 2015, 46.9% of white non-hispanic adults could claim a postsecondary degree, up 5.9% from 2007.  For African-American adults the percentage was 33.3%, up 5.5% from 2007 and for Latino adults the figure was 22.6%, up 3.7% from 2007.  The report adds:

These trends vary dramatically from state to state. States like Ohio and Oregon narrowed the gap between African Americans and whites by six and seven points, respectively, while Maryland and Illinois saw an increase in the gap of twelve points and seven points respectively. In the end, only ten states saw the African American gap narrow since 2007 (six other states had insufficient sample sizes for an accurate estimate). Twelve states saw the Latino gap narrow in the same time period (six states also had insufficient sample sizes).

In addition, each individual state report card indicates the average student debt load in that state.  The full report is available at


Your comments are welcome. They must be relevant to the topic at hand and must not contain advertisements, degrade others, or violate laws or considerations of privacy. We encourage the use of your real name, but do not prohibit pseudonyms as long as you don’t impersonate a real person.