The privatization of public higher education: the relationship between state control and state funding of public institutions of higher learning

Access full-text files




Whitney, Karen Marie

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Using descriptive, bivariate, regression, correlation and time series analysis from several sources, this study investigated linking state control and funding of public higher education together in order to explore the likelihood of privatization of public higher education. Privatization was defined as the cumulative result of a shift in primary funding sources from state appropriated funds to non-governmental funds over time to meet the current operating expenses of an institution. The study included 369 four-year public institutions of higher learning from all 50 states that completed the Department of Education’s Higher Education General Information Survey (HEGIS), and the Integrated Postsecondary Educational Data System (IPEDS) from 1967 to 1996 and United States census data. Study variables included state, student and institutional contributions to funding in addition to indicators of state funding and control. The data and analysis presented, showed that public institutions of higher learning have become funded proportionally more from private sources than from state appropriated sources over the past 30 years. There was no relationship between past state funding and past state control of public institutions of higher education, nor between present state funding and control, or future state funding and control. The results of the study were plotted for each state onto a four-sector Likelihood of Privatization Matrix, creating a finance-control conceptual model explaining the privatization of public colleges and universities. The concept of privatization may reframe the basic notion of what it means to be a public institution of higher learning and the extent to which state regulation is connected to funding.