Why Two States Chose to Increase Funding For Public Higher Education in the Wake of the Recession

Despite calls for more Americans with college degrees to keep up with an increasingly competitive global marketplace, only two states in the country have increased spending on public higher education in the last six years, according to the U.S. News and World Report.

Since the country’s economic recession in 2008, North Dakota and Alaska are the only two states to spend more money per student on their state’s higher education, with North Dakota increasing funding by 61% and Alaska by 20%. All other states have made cuts averaging a 23% decrease, with Arizona, Louisiana and South Carolina cutting higher education spending by over 40% since 2008.

While many may be surprised that two predominantly Republican states would pour so much more money into public higher education, they seem to be the only ones to realize that the more you put into higher education, the more you get out of it.

“When a state increases funding for higher education, they increase the long term investment in new enterprises which creates new jobs and in turn fosters new financial resources. It all starts with opportunities for young people and developing new skills for those already in the workplace,” says Rick Friedman, President of ScholarlyHires.com.

Both North Dakota and Alaska have been big players in the energy boom, and although some jobs in this industry require only a high school diploma, it is the better and higher-paying positions that desperately need to be filled.

Petroleum engineers make an average of $162,860 a year, according to the U.S. News and World Report, and North Dakota has plenty of opportunities like this for people with the right educational background — about 25,000 current job openings that could turn into 80,000 by the year 2025.

North Dakota has relied mostly on out-of-state residents with college degrees to fill these positions, but with state-wide increases in public higher education funding, the state is hoping to give more jobs to its own residents in the future.

While investing in the engineers and scientists of the future has clear benefits for students and the economy, it also stands to benefit residents throughout the state. UCLA research revealed “that a single percentage point rise in the number of graduates in a state raises everyone else’s wages,” according to U.S. News and World Report.

Many states may find it difficult to justify such large increases in spending while they are still in the midst of economic recovery, but providing more funding to public colleges and universities could, in fact, be the answer to their financial problems.

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