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Policy Statement 555 - State Support for Higher Education


Approved by the Committee on Education on March 19, 2018
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on May 8, 2018
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 13, 2018


The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) believes that robust public funding by state governments for higher education - at the undergraduate and graduate levels - is in the best interest of the states and the nation. ASCE believes that access to higher education, in civil engineering and in other areas, is essential for the advancement of state and national interests.


State appropriations have historically served as a significant source of funding for higher education, but over the past two decades that support has waned. Between 2009-10 and 2014-15, State-level educational appropriations per full time equivalent student (FTE) declined by approximately 11 percent, while the share of tuition paid by students increased by almost 25 percent [SHEEO, 2018] and the cost of undergraduate education saw increases ranging from 1 percent to over 50 percent [College Board, 2014]. State support of higher education and research should be provided at a level sufficient to meet society's expectations and need for future engineers. 

States play a key role in making higher education accessible. Many students rely heavily on financial aid from the states to attend public and private universities, as well as colleges and community colleges. Over the past two decades, reductions in state appropriations for higher education have resulted in increased costs, high student debts, and more barriers to securing a stable American middle class. Reductions in state support likely have a disproportionate impact on students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, which negatively affects access, diversity, and inclusion. 


State government funding in support of engineering education is essential for maintaining sufficient engineering expertise to support society's needs. By making higher education accessible, states help prepare people for meaningful and good-paying jobs. America's economic competitiveness relies, in part, on a diverse pool of qualified engineers to design, build, and maintain the nation's infrastructure; conduct research; develop new products and technologies; and solve the challenging problems we face at the state, national, and global levels. Engineers help meet state and national needs and goals by ensuring that the public health, safety, welfare, and protection of the environment are addressed and achieved. 

ASCE Policy Statement 555
First Approved 2018