Bryan Caplan  

Correction: Total Government Spending on Higher Education

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Last night I realized that I repeatedly used an incorrect figure for government higher education spending in my debate with Steve Pearlstein.  I said "Taxpayers heavily subsidize higher education - about $500 billion dollars per year."  But ~$500B is in fact the figure for total higher education spending. 

The true figures for higher education spending (see Digest of Education Statistics 2011, Tables 31 and 384):

$234.4B for state and local spending (2008-2009)


$36.4B for on-budget federal spending (2008)


$76.0B for off-budget federal spending (2008)

for a total of $346.8B.  "A third of a trillion dollars per year" would have been far closer to the truth than "Half a trillion dollars per year."  My bad, no excuses.

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (3 to date)
BK writes:

Do those figures include tax-exemptions for schools, the charitable tax deduction for donors, and an annualized accounting for the value of land grants (market rents of land granted to educational institutions by government)?

MikeP writes:

...or the continuous avalanche of marketing from government officials calling for people to get more higher education than they are getting today?

daubery writes:

That's interesting - I wasn't aware what the subsidy was as a fraction of total spending. As a non-American my perception (based on no real evidence) had been that a lot of people paid market rate, and the impression I get from talking to people in my country is that most think US university is almost entirely privately funded. But at just about 1/3 of spending funded by individuals it's not a lot different in the US to here.

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