Alabama has slashed its per-student state higher education funding more than any other state over the last decade, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a nonpartisan research organization based in Washington, D.C.
Since 2008, Alabama has cut state higher education funding by 36.2%, or $4,466 per student, CBPP found. The state’s cuts are the nation’s worst by dollar amount and third worst by percentage. Nationally, the average cuts since 2008 are 13%, or $1,220 per student.
Alabama’s inadequate public investment in higher education over the last decade has contributed to soaring tuition costs. And that has forced many students either to start their careers in deep debt or abandon their college dreams entirely.
Between 2008 and 2018, the average tuition at public four-year institutions in Alabama jumped by $4,489, or 72.9%. That is nearly twice the national average growth of 37% – and almost exactly matches the size of state funding cuts. These soaring costs have erected barriers to opportunity for young people across Alabama, particularly for black and Latino students.
“This is another example of how short-sighted education cuts hurt people across Alabama,” Alabama Arise executive director Robyn Hyden said. “Pushing college students and their families into deep debt isn’t making our state stronger. We need to invest more in education at all levels to build an Alabama where everyone has the opportunity to succeed.”
Soaring tuition disproportionately harms black and Latino students
Alabama’s rising college costs have hit hardest among black and Latino students. In 2017, the average net price of attending a public four-year university accounted for:
- 35% of median household income for all families in Alabama.
- 45% of median household income for Latino families in Alabama.
- 54% of median household income for black families in Alabama.
Financial aid has not increased enough to cover higher college costs nationwide. The resulting higher prices can dissuade many students from enrolling or finishing their degrees. Tuition increases also can reduce campus diversity, especially among people of color and students from households with low wealth.
A large and growing share of future jobs will require college-educated workers. Greater public investment in higher education, particularly in need-based aid, would help Alabama develop the skilled and diverse workforce it needs to match the jobs of the future.
“All Alabamians, regardless of their income or hometown, deserve an opportunity to reach their full potential,” Hyden said. “Alabama should invest in making college more affordable for the students who need assistance the most. And ending skewed tax breaks for large corporations and wealthy households would be a good place to start.”