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The shift in higher education funding since the Great Recession

raduates sit in a tent on the premises of the University of Mannheim during a Master's graduate party. Photo: Silas Stein/dpa (Photo by Silas Stein/picture alliance via Getty Images)
Photo: Silas Stein/picture alliance via Getty Images

The federal government has had to shoulder more of the country's higher education costs as state investments have declined the past 20 years — and especially after 2008's Great Recession — an analysis from the Pew Charitable Trusts shows.

The state of play: Education funding has experienced a large shift as federal funding programs based on student need surged while state funding for research and public universities withered.

  • State schools have deferred more costs to their students as a result.
  • Public colleges educate 70% of the country's higher ed students. A third of total revenue from public post-secondary schools is made up from federal and state sources.

By the numbers: Federal spending on major higher education programs totaled nearly $75 billion in 2017, excluding federal student loans, while state investments accounted for about $87 billion.

  • Pell Grants, federal aid for students in the lowest income bracket, surged by 96% between 2008 and 2010.
  • Federal veterans' education benefits grew by almost 150% between 2008 and 2017.
  • General appropriations for state spending dropped by 20% from 2008 to 2013.

Between the lines: The federal government is the largest student lender in the U.S. with $94 billion in loans from 2018 alone.

  • Despite the burden students have taken on in the past decade, young adults still say they value a higher education, per the Hechinger Report.

Go deeper: Axios' Deep Dive on the future of higher education