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1 in 4 State Colleges Spent More Than They Took in Over 5 Years

Updated on:
Content was accurate at the time of publication.
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Tuition costs are rising, but colleges don’t just make money off the fees they charge their students.

Along with endowments and athletics, state schools depend on public funding from their states to meet operational costs. But according to the latest LendingTree analysis, 24.6% of state schools operated in the red between 2017 and 2021 — the last five fiscal years for which data was available. That percentage dipped to 20.1% when looking solely at 2021.

Worse yet, a lack of funding can cause tuition rates (and the resulting student loan debt) to rise even more as schools struggle to make ends meet — which can make a college education even more inaccessible to lower-income students and their families. Here’s a closer look at our findings.

  • 24.6% of the state schools analyzed spent more than they took in over the five fiscal years between 2017 and 2021. That equated to 131 of 533 state schools. The University of New Hampshire at Manchester was the most underfunded — at 34.1% — in this period. If you narrow the focus to the 2021 fiscal year — the latest available — 107 of the 533, or 20.1%, were in the red. In 2021, CUNY City College in New York had a massive 106.0% deficit — the biggest by nearly 45 percentage points.
  • New York had the highest rate of state schools running at a deficit between the 2017 and 2021 fiscal years. In New York, 73.7% (or 28 of 38) of state schools operated in the red in this period, followed by Pennsylvania (71.4%, or 10 of 14), Connecticut (66.7%, or four of six), New Mexico (66.7%, or four of six) and Hawaii (66.7%, or two of three). Note that three institutions in Pennsylvania and four in Connecticut weren’t included in our analysis due to missing data.
  • New Mexico shifted to the top spot when looking at 2021 alone. In New Mexico, 100.0% (or six of six) state schools ran at a deficit in 2021. It was followed by Hawaii (66.7%, or two of three), New York (52.6%, or 20 of 38) and Georgia (52.6%, or 10 of 19).
  • Six states’ schools ran at a combined deficit over the five fiscal years analyzed. Mississippi was in the red by the most (7.6%, or $1.4 billion), followed by Connecticut (4.9%, or $845.2 million), New Mexico (2.8%, or $477.0 million) and New York (1.7%, or $1.2 billion). Another two states — Hawaii and Pennsylvania — finished in the red by less than half a percentage.
  • That total dipped to three states’ schools in the 2021 fiscal year alone. New Mexico again shifted to the top of the 2021 list, at 22.2%, or $854.0 million. It was followed by Connecticut (13.3%, or $484.9 million) and New York (2.4%, or $354.9 million). Hawaii was slightly in the red (by $221,000) but rounded to a 0.0% deficit.
  • Half of the 10 most underfunded state schools between 2017 and 2021 were Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs). This was more common in 2021 alone, as nine of the 10 most underfunded state schools that fiscal year were MSIs.

Over the five fiscal years between 2017 and 2021, 131 of the 533 studied schools (24.6%) operated at a deficit. The University of New Hampshire at Manchester had the highest five-year deficit at 34.1%, followed by two schools in the City University of New York (CUNY) system: City College (31.2%) and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice (21.2%).

CUNY and SUNY (State University of New York) schools were well-represented: Seven of the 15 schools with the deepest five-year deficits are part of the state’s public university systems. Looking beyond our studied period, funding cuts from the city of New York totaled $155 million in fiscal year 2023, with more slated for the 2024, 2025 and 2026 fiscal years — so the problem will get worse rather than better.

Most underfunded public colleges between the 2017 and 2021 fiscal years

InstitutionState5-year revenues5-year expenses5-year net revenues5-year deficit
University of New Hampshire at ManchesterNew Hampshire$67,662,776$90,764,292-$23,101,516-34.1%
CUNY City CollegeNew York$2,353,070,825$3,087,347,678-$734,276,853-31.2%
CUNY John Jay College of Criminal JusticeNew York$1,463,765,822$1,773,992,065-$310,226,243-21.2%
Rutgers University-CamdenNew Jersey$997,574,000$1,169,245,000-$171,671,000-17.2%
University of MississippiMississippi$10,749,387,348$12,556,365,323-$1,806,977,975-16.8%
Charter Oak State CollegeConnecticut$86,620,377$98,484,938-$11,864,561-13.7%
CUNY Medgar Evers CollegeNew York$688,661,401$780,793,616-$92,132,215-13.4%
SUNY Maritime CollegeNew York$335,401,433$376,948,291-$41,546,858-12.4%
New Mexico State University-Main CampusNew Mexico$2,228,938,561$2,455,743,752-$226,805,191-10.2%
SUNY at FredoniaNew York$595,870,932$655,547,275-$59,676,343-10.0%
SUNY College at PotsdamNew York$519,863,928$567,825,458-$47,961,530-9.2%
California State University Maritime AcademyCalifornia$357,951,370$390,356,702-$32,405,332-9.1%
New College of FloridaFlorida$238,302,819$258,576,486-$20,273,667-8.5%
California State University-FresnoCalifornia$2,205,552,796$2,376,295,700-$170,742,904-7.7%
SUNY Buffalo StateNew York$1,146,863,802$1,234,231,637-$87,367,835-7.6%
Missouri Western State UniversityMissouri$353,068,383$379,558,610-$26,490,227-7.5%
SUNY College of Agriculture and Technology at CobleskillNew York$350,409,342$376,247,101-$25,837,759-7.4%
New Mexico Institute of Mining and TechnologyNew Mexico$727,651,688$780,759,522-$53,107,834-7.3%
CUNY Lehman CollegeNew York$1,211,181,313$1,298,736,458-$87,555,145-7.2%
SUNY College of Technology at DelhiNew York$342,709,940$367,430,638-$24,720,698-7.2%
University of ConnecticutConnecticut$12,944,653,502$13,874,967,039-$930,313,537-7.2%
Mansfield University of PennsylvaniaPennsylvania$245,454,222$262,295,812-$16,841,590-6.9%
Shepherd UniversityWest Virginia$270,406,047$287,006,158-$16,600,111-6.1%
SUNY College of Environmental Science and ForestryNew York$467,120,774$494,564,968-$27,444,194-5.9%
Minot State UniversityNorth Dakota$275,828,254$291,872,739-$16,044,485-5.8%
SUNY at Purchase CollegeNew York$693,582,461$731,923,581-$38,341,120-5.5%
SUNY College at Old WestburyNew York$521,460,771$549,745,565-$28,284,794-5.4%
California State University-San MarcosCalifornia$1,393,744,811$1,469,078,905-$75,334,094-5.4%
New Mexico Highlands UniversityNew Mexico$353,018,555$372,070,338-$19,051,783-5.4%
Shippensburg University of PennsylvaniaPennsylvania$704,645,943$742,443,476-$37,797,533-5.4%
CUNY York CollegeNew York$647,776,545$681,656,889-$33,880,344-5.2%
The University of West FloridaFlorida$1,212,231,030$1,275,595,738-$63,364,708-5.2%
Henderson State UniversityArkansas$303,865,782$319,491,584-$15,625,802-5.1%
Clarion University of PennsylvaniaPennsylvania$514,332,464$540,442,026-$26,109,562-5.1%
Coppin State UniversityMaryland$432,602,515$454,057,926-$21,455,411-5.0%
New Jersey City UniversityNew Jersey$827,151,910$867,928,833-$40,776,923-4.9%
SUNY College at GeneseoNew York$671,346,337$703,938,544-$32,592,207-4.9%
California State University-Monterey BayCalifornia$978,193,480$1,024,900,776-$46,707,296-4.8%
University of Central MissouriMissouri$972,404,023$1,018,043,753-$45,639,730-4.7%
University of Illinois SpringfieldIllinois$599,350,978$626,362,003-$27,011,025-4.5%
Edinboro University of PennsylvaniaPennsylvania$555,721,756$580,563,754-$24,841,998-4.5%
SUNY Downstate Health Sciences UniversityNew York$4,018,491,037$4,194,849,142-$176,358,105-4.4%
Southeast Missouri State UniversityMissouri$876,021,945$914,314,383-$38,292,438-4.4%
Keene State CollegeNew Hampshire$514,545,991$536,887,097-$22,341,106-4.3%
SUNY College of Technology at CantonNew York$352,652,805$367,817,054-$15,164,249-4.3%
University of Wisconsin-StoutWisconsin$741,393,818$772,462,865-$31,069,047-4.2%
University of West GeorgiaGeorgia$1,128,526,149$1,174,729,407-$46,203,258-4.1%
Lander UniversitySouth Carolina$305,512,867$317,613,010-$12,100,143-4.0%
Georgia Southwestern State UniversityGeorgia$238,353,253$247,746,458-$9,393,205-3.9%
Northern Kentucky UniversityKentucky$1,253,303,000$1,302,637,000-$49,334,000-3.9%
California State University-BakersfieldCalifornia$1,047,701,953$1,086,742,367-$39,040,414-3.7%
SUNY College at PlattsburghNew York$704,670,731$730,239,948-$25,569,217-3.6%
Kutztown University of PennsylvaniaPennsylvania$882,285,743$914,060,698-$31,774,955-3.6%
University of Wisconsin-SuperiorWisconsin$267,838,343$277,381,293-$9,542,950-3.6%
Southwest Minnesota State UniversityMinnesota$262,475,000$271,688,000-$9,213,000-3.5%
SUNY CortlandNew York$842,251,711$871,540,360-$29,288,649-3.5%
University of Alaska AnchorageAlaska$1,409,919,521$1,457,907,127-$47,987,606-3.4%
SUNY College at OswegoNew York$982,027,205$1,015,193,337-$33,166,132-3.4%
California State University-San BernardinoCalifornia$1,788,437,044$1,848,573,259-$60,136,215-3.4%
University of MontevalloAlabama$354,952,472$366,569,424-$11,616,952-3.3%
California Polytechnic State University-San Luis ObispoCalifornia$2,888,076,882$2,982,016,957-$93,940,075-3.3%
College of Staten Island CUNYNew York$1,073,558,749$1,107,905,066-$34,346,317-3.2%
State University of New York at New PaltzNew York$928,945,595$958,564,272-$29,618,677-3.2%
William Paterson University of New JerseyNew Jersey$1,139,494,293$1,175,685,499-$36,191,206-3.2%
Sul Ross State UniversityTexas$282,327,092$291,097,000-$8,769,908-3.1%
Dickinson State UniversityNorth Dakota$139,016,764$143,201,330-$4,184,566-3.0%
Lock Haven UniversityPennsylvania$420,460,738$432,670,517-$12,209,779-2.9%
University of Hawaii at HiloHawaii$589,203,915$606,181,249-$16,977,334-2.9%
California State University-SacramentoCalifornia$2,922,445,963$3,006,097,911-$83,651,948-2.9%
SUNY Empire State CollegeNew York$634,853,640$652,292,430-$17,438,790-2.7%
Missouri Southern State UniversityMissouri$383,426,654$393,688,542-$10,261,888-2.7%
Minnesota State University MoorheadMinnesota$494,229,000$507,041,000-$12,812,000-2.6%
Massachusetts College of Liberal ArtsMassachusetts$248,434,687$254,525,821-$6,091,134-2.5%
SUNY OneontaNew York$767,703,865$786,309,202-$18,605,337-2.4%
Northern Illinois UniversityIllinois$2,747,912,331$2,812,286,863-$64,374,532-2.3%
San Francisco State UniversityCalifornia$2,909,995,415$2,976,016,380-$66,020,965-2.3%
Clayton State UniversityGeorgia$468,604,978$479,073,252-$10,468,274-2.2%
University of Wisconsin-OshkoshWisconsin$902,495,357$922,115,070-$19,619,713-2.2%
Middle Georgia State UniversityGeorgia$545,614,712$557,399,810-$11,785,098-2.2%
Medical University of South CarolinaSouth Carolina$4,044,118,306$4,129,877,902-$85,759,596-2.1%
SUNY BrockportNew York$938,828,512$958,677,336-$19,848,824-2.1%
San Jose State UniversityCalifornia$3,220,114,095$3,288,072,793-$67,958,698-2.1%
Winona State UniversityMinnesota$742,907,000$757,743,000-$14,836,000-2.0%
Bridgewater State UniversityMassachusetts$1,060,185,639$1,081,057,361-$20,871,722-2.0%
CUNY Queens CollegeNew York$1,592,024,534$1,622,600,464-$30,575,930-1.9%
Saint Cloud State UniversityMinnesota$981,363,000$998,794,000-$17,431,000-1.8%
Western Connecticut State UniversityConnecticut$734,671,892$747,392,645-$12,720,753-1.7%
Kentucky State UniversityKentucky$365,153,170$371,450,934-$6,297,764-1.7%
Sonoma State UniversityCalifornia$1,215,349,936$1,236,207,455-$20,857,519-1.7%
Mayville State UniversityNorth Dakota$121,970,799$123,977,725-$2,006,926-1.6%
Southern Connecticut State UniversityConnecticut$1,262,745,091$1,283,234,162-$20,489,071-1.6%
Thomas Edison State UniversityNew Jersey$365,161,671$370,688,859-$5,527,188-1.5%
CUNY Graduate School and University CenterNew York$1,820,805,755$1,847,908,857-$27,103,102-1.5%
University of New Mexico-Main CampusNew Mexico$12,855,527,338$13,042,582,524-$187,055,186-1.5%
Rutgers University-NewarkNew Jersey$2,338,384,000$2,371,648,000-$33,264,000-1.4%
Missouri State University-SpringfieldMissouri$1,771,954,869$1,796,431,081-$24,476,212-1.4%
California State University-Long BeachCalifornia$3,324,541,111$3,370,312,891-$45,771,780-1.4%
Black Hills State UniversitySouth Dakota$251,294,954$254,525,006-$3,230,052-1.3%
The College of New JerseyNew Jersey$1,255,908,000$1,271,072,000-$15,164,000-1.2%
Montclair State UniversityNew Jersey$2,263,242,000$2,289,680,000-$26,438,000-1.2%
Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical CollegeLouisiana$6,015,572,726$6,079,788,613-$64,215,887-1.1%
Glenville State UniversityWest Virginia$129,994,568$131,212,339-$1,217,771-0.9%
Valdosta State UniversityGeorgia$908,585,260$916,422,456-$7,837,196-0.9%
California State University-NorthridgeCalifornia$3,432,258,860$3,459,523,835-$27,264,975-0.8%
Minnesota State University-MankatoMinnesota$1,233,064,000$1,242,681,000-$9,617,000-0.8%
Eastern Illinois UniversityIllinois$952,424,866$959,034,272-$6,609,406-0.7%
Indiana University-BloomingtonIndiana$8,418,156,017$8,475,770,121-$57,614,104-0.7%
Columbus State UniversityGeorgia$641,945,357$646,032,624-$4,087,267-0.6%
Western Illinois UniversityIllinois$1,310,901,488$1,319,149,444-$8,247,956-0.6%
Georgia College & State UniversityGeorgia$843,166,651$847,889,404-$4,722,753-0.6%
Georgia Southern UniversityGeorgia$2,269,723,765$2,281,333,037-$11,609,272-0.5%
University of IdahoIdaho$2,073,501,580$2,083,899,025-$10,397,445-0.5%
University of Maine at Presque IsleMaine$106,238,000$106,730,000-$492,000-0.5%
University of Minnesota-MorrisMinnesota$263,168,926$264,297,555-$1,128,629-0.4%
Bloomsburg University of PennsylvaniaPennsylvania$940,043,054$943,947,039-$3,903,985-0.4%
University of Maryland Global CampusMaryland$2,173,984,881$2,182,940,456-$8,955,575-0.4%
Texas A&M University-TexarkanaTexas$256,977,854$257,992,665-$1,014,811-0.4%
University of Louisiana at LafayetteLouisiana$1,770,671,200$1,777,089,746-$6,418,546-0.4%
University of North GeorgiaGeorgia$1,235,757,150$1,240,024,318-$4,267,168-0.3%
Midwestern State UniversityTexas$608,642,045$610,498,612-$1,856,567-0.3%
University of North FloridaFlorida$1,548,337,114$1,553,050,600-$4,713,486-0.3%
West Chester University of PennsylvaniaPennsylvania$1,573,246,884$1,577,607,845-$4,360,961-0.3%
California University of PennsylvaniaPennsylvania$697,974,393$699,773,084-$1,798,691-0.3%
Farmingdale State CollegeNew York$865,253,591$867,207,174-$1,953,583-0.2%
San Diego State UniversityCalifornia$3,622,613,714$3,630,424,024-$7,810,310-0.2%
University of Hawaii at ManoaHawaii$5,192,897,300$5,203,452,359-$10,555,059-0.2%
The Evergreen State CollegeWashington$506,096,613$507,063,982-$967,369-0.2%
California State University-FullertonCalifornia$3,352,577,369$3,357,581,795-$5,004,426-0.1%
Truman State UniversityMissouri$562,495,288$563,136,075-$640,787-0.1%
University of South FloridaFlorida$7,132,261,081$7,139,664,696-$7,403,615-0.1%
Millersville University of PennsylvaniaPennsylvania$812,096,931$812,507,804-$410,873-0.1%

Source: LendingTree analysis of Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Notes: This list was limited to four-year or greater institutions under primary control of their states that primarily offer baccalaureate degrees or higher. School names are displayed as styled in the IPEDS database.

When the focus was narrowed to only fiscal year 2021 — the last for which data was available — CUNY City College took the No. 1 spot, with a deficit of 106.0%, or $580.8 million. However, the most underfunded list in this case is headlined not by New York but by New Mexico, which had five of the 10 state schools with the deepest deficits during this period.

In addition, some schools high on the 2017-to-2021 list fell off based on the last year alone, including Rutgers University-Camden and the University of Mississippi.

Most underfunded public colleges in the 2021 fiscal year

InstitutionStateRevenuesExpensesNet revenuesDeficit
CUNY City CollegeNew York$548,166,643$1,129,002,242-$580,835,599-106.0%
New Mexico State University-Main CampusNew Mexico$455,946,400$735,688,845-$279,742,445-61.4%
CUNY John Jay College of Criminal JusticeNew York$354,879,769$537,789,499-$182,909,730-51.5%
New Mexico Institute of Mining and TechnologyNew Mexico$143,539,492$196,692,244-$53,152,752-37.0%
CUNY Medgar Evers CollegeNew York$144,286,761$197,089,386-$52,802,625-36.6%
New Mexico Highlands UniversityNew Mexico$71,870,326$96,784,628-$24,914,302-34.7%
Eastern New Mexico University-Main CampusNew Mexico$89,618,283$114,205,205-$24,586,922-27.4%
CUNY New York City College of TechnologyNew York$245,597,268$312,541,542-$66,944,274-27.3%
Western New Mexico UniversityNew Mexico$56,758,070$71,591,314-$14,833,244-26.1%
New College of FloridaFlorida$49,481,698$60,662,479-$11,180,781-22.6%
Charter Oak State CollegeConnecticut$19,033,084$23,256,465-$4,223,381-22.2%
University of New Hampshire at ManchesterNew Hampshire$14,152,809$17,129,263-$2,976,454-21.0%
University of ConnecticutConnecticut$2,704,897,278$3,235,148,266-$530,250,988-19.6%
Keene State CollegeNew Hampshire$99,243,121$115,847,211-$16,604,090-16.7%
CUNY Lehman CollegeNew York$290,379,276$338,259,943-$47,880,667-16.5%
Mansfield University of PennsylvaniaPennsylvania$44,800,816$51,927,411-$7,126,595-15.9%
University of Minnesota-RochesterMinnesota$22,272,703$25,780,040-$3,507,337-15.7%
University of New Mexico-Main CampusNew Mexico$3,027,111,000$3,483,927,893-$456,816,893-15.1%
California State University-Monterey BayCalifornia$196,858,145$223,105,236-$26,247,091-13.3%
California State University-SacramentoCalifornia$615,659,211$688,364,939-$72,705,728-11.8%
The University of West FloridaFlorida$221,350,345$247,290,920-$25,940,575-11.7%
University of California-Santa CruzCalifornia$848,226,000$946,642,000-$98,416,000-11.6%
Lock Haven UniversityPennsylvania$75,425,442$84,092,347-$8,666,905-11.5%
San Diego State UniversityCalifornia$752,927,736$831,863,246-$78,935,510-10.5%
Georgia College & State UniversityGeorgia$160,989,197$177,258,626-$16,269,429-10.1%
SUNY at Purchase CollegeNew York$122,812,687$134,609,134-$11,796,447-9.6%
California State University Maritime AcademyCalifornia$67,799,259$74,289,898-$6,490,639-9.6%
SUNY Maritime CollegeNew York$63,836,579$69,837,252-$6,000,673-9.4%
Clarion University of PennsylvaniaPennsylvania$102,922,078$112,265,554-$9,343,476-9.1%
University of West GeorgiaGeorgia$222,535,510$241,461,218-$18,925,708-8.5%
Northern Kentucky UniversityKentucky$255,368,000$276,291,000-$20,923,000-8.2%
University of Florida-OnlineFlorida$21,488,000$23,240,000-$1,752,000-8.2%
Peru State CollegeNebraska$27,572,952$29,748,134-$2,175,182-7.9%
SUNY College at PotsdamNew York$97,331,363$104,923,106-$7,591,743-7.8%
SUNY Buffalo StateNew York$223,468,889$240,189,856-$16,720,967-7.5%
San Jose State UniversityCalifornia$684,989,037$733,024,646-$48,035,609-7.0%
Florida Polytechnic UniversityFlorida$59,570,240$63,650,405-$4,080,165-6.8%
Winona State UniversityMinnesota$139,187,000$148,317,000-$9,130,000-6.6%
Saint Cloud State UniversityMinnesota$176,364,000$187,788,000-$11,424,000-6.5%
Lander UniversitySouth Carolina$70,789,216$75,316,460-$4,527,244-6.4%
The College of New JerseyNew Jersey$229,064,000$243,422,000-$14,358,000-6.3%
SUNY Downstate Health Sciences UniversityNew York$763,214,231$809,779,481-$46,565,250-6.1%
Columbus State UniversityGeorgia$123,584,319$131,068,161-$7,483,842-6.1%
Minot State UniversityNorth Dakota$56,568,933$59,917,274-$3,348,341-5.9%
University of Illinois SpringfieldIllinois$123,429,874$130,426,597-$6,996,723-5.7%
Western Connecticut State UniversityConnecticut$144,168,590$152,163,274-$7,994,684-5.5%
Dalton State CollegeGeorgia$49,326,239$52,025,905-$2,699,666-5.5%
Longwood UniversityVirginia$136,457,147$143,859,458-$7,402,311-5.4%
SUNY OneontaNew York$143,921,319$151,576,727-$7,655,408-5.3%
California State Polytechnic University-PomonaCalifornia$527,082,268$554,645,190-$27,562,922-5.2%
SUNY College of Technology at DelhiNew York$68,241,868$71,793,653-$3,551,785-5.2%
California State University-BakersfieldCalifornia$232,579,529$244,452,113-$11,872,584-5.1%
University of Maryland-Baltimore CountyMaryland$434,177,367$455,899,688-$21,722,321-5.0%
Southwest Minnesota State UniversityMinnesota$53,128,000$55,768,000-$2,640,000-5.0%
SUNY College at GeneseoNew York$128,756,409$135,078,373-$6,321,964-4.9%
Sonoma State UniversityCalifornia$238,789,122$249,776,866-$10,987,744-4.6%
Georgia Gwinnett CollegeGeorgia$156,307,613$163,266,650-$6,959,037-4.5%
California State University-San MarcosCalifornia$297,015,441$309,438,496-$12,423,055-4.2%
SUNY College of Environmental Science and ForestryNew York$97,806,255$101,810,794-$4,004,539-4.1%
California State University-San BernardinoCalifornia$370,553,289$385,524,091-$14,970,802-4.0%
Bemidji State UniversityMinnesota$75,446,000$78,261,000-$2,815,000-3.7%
SUNY at FredoniaNew York$115,496,924$119,713,989-$4,217,065-3.7%
SUNY CortlandNew York$166,515,938$172,431,812-$5,915,874-3.6%
University of Hawaii-West OahuHawaii$55,827,591$57,670,754-$1,843,163-3.3%
University of Science and Arts of OklahomaOklahoma$21,373,797$22,015,707-$641,910-3.0%
San Francisco State UniversityCalifornia$580,800,666$597,509,780-$16,709,114-2.9%
Western Illinois UniversityIllinois$251,570,257$258,502,159-$6,931,902-2.8%
Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical CollegeLouisiana$1,271,684,251$1,301,689,384-$30,005,133-2.4%
Oklahoma Panhandle State UniversityOklahoma$23,419,334$23,964,864-$545,530-2.3%
University of New OrleansLouisiana$162,039,454$165,744,650-$3,705,196-2.3%
Miami University-HamiltonOhio$31,577,557$32,296,386-$718,829-2.3%
University of Hawaii at HiloHawaii$121,093,944$123,624,148-$2,530,204-2.1%
University of North GeorgiaGeorgia$265,242,651$270,271,133-$5,028,482-1.9%
Northeastern State UniversityOklahoma$108,123,964$110,165,581-$2,041,617-1.9%
Kentucky State UniversityKentucky$89,918,347$91,614,391-$1,696,044-1.9%
Northern Illinois UniversityIllinois$560,773,809$571,332,239-$10,558,430-1.9%
University of Central FloridaFlorida$1,333,298,212$1,357,116,776-$23,818,564-1.8%
Francis Marion UniversitySouth Carolina$78,122,531$79,507,645-$1,385,114-1.8%
Georgia Southern UniversityGeorgia$452,438,264$460,233,291-$7,795,027-1.7%
Bowie State UniversityMaryland$147,441,792$149,904,927-$2,463,135-1.7%
Louisiana State University-ShreveportLouisiana$88,793,486$90,172,410-$1,378,924-1.6%
University of South FloridaFlorida$1,540,004,965$1,562,591,496-$22,586,531-1.5%
University of OregonOregon$1,031,701,039$1,046,482,259-$14,781,220-1.4%
University of Maryland Global CampusMaryland$449,018,355$455,399,854-$6,381,499-1.4%
California State Polytechnic University-HumboldtCalifornia$199,856,054$202,471,527-$2,615,473-1.3%
Cameron UniversityOklahoma$58,932,929$59,698,211-$765,282-1.3%
Southern Illinois University-EdwardsvilleIllinois$429,950,162$435,379,129-$5,428,967-1.3%
Shippensburg University of PennsylvaniaPennsylvania$144,976,139$146,775,532-$1,799,393-1.2%
The University of MontanaMontana$347,940,706$351,625,683-$3,684,977-1.1%
Kennesaw State UniversityGeorgia$588,241,051$593,900,160-$5,659,109-1.0%
College of Staten Island CUNYNew York$230,989,346$233,198,724-$2,209,378-1.0%
College of CharlestonSouth Carolina$277,805,736$280,352,050-$2,546,314-0.9%
Edinboro University of PennsylvaniaPennsylvania$105,653,665$106,555,432-$901,767-0.9%
Jacksonville State UniversityAlabama$166,753,080$168,155,651-$1,402,571-0.8%
SUNY College at Old WestburyNew York$107,377,015$108,169,839-$792,824-0.7%
Midwestern State UniversityTexas$130,178,016$131,104,295-$926,279-0.7%
Mississippi University for WomenMississippi$52,510,810$52,870,596-$359,786-0.7%
Towson UniversityMaryland$434,995,071$437,920,423-$2,925,352-0.7%
Texas A&M University-Central TexasTexas$45,160,392$45,462,501-$302,109-0.7%
University of GeorgiaGeorgia$1,702,373,642$1,712,599,588-$10,225,946-0.6%
Louisiana State University-AlexandriaLouisiana$33,962,157$34,136,410-$174,253-0.5%
Montana Technological UniversityMontana$61,556,318$61,819,864-$263,546-0.4%
Southern Illinois University-CarbondaleIllinois$834,311,216$837,563,327-$3,252,111-0.4%
University of Alaska AnchorageAlaska$259,363,923$260,339,413-$975,490-0.4%
Medical University of South CarolinaSouth Carolina$904,374,960$906,897,834-$2,522,874-0.3%
State University of New York at New PaltzNew York$182,022,643$182,518,028-$495,385-0.3%
SUNY College of Agriculture and Technology at CobleskillNew York$73,100,171$73,170,448-$70,277-0.1%

Source: LendingTree analysis of IPEDS data from the NCES. Notes: This list was limited to four-year or greater institutions under primary control of their states that primarily offer baccalaureate degrees or higher. School names are displayed as styled in the IPEDS database.

Of New York’s 38 public colleges, 28 ran at a deficit between 2017 and 2021. That’s 73.7% of its state-funded schools running in the red.

During that period, the runner-up was Pennsylvania, with 10 of its 14 schools (71.4%) running at a deficit. The schools in the commonwealth that ran the most in the red during that period were Mansfield University of Pennsylvania at 6.9% and Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania at 5.4%.

States with the highest rate of underfunded public colleges between the 2017 and 2021 fiscal years

StateSchoolsSchools with 5-year deficit% of schools with 5-year deficit
New York382873.7%
New Mexico6466.7%
New Jersey13753.8%
North Dakota6350.0%
New Hampshire5240.0%
West Virginia9222.2%
South Dakota6116.7%
South Carolina13215.4%

Source: LendingTree analysis of IPEDS data from the NCES. Note: This list was limited to four-year or greater institutions under primary control of their states that primarily offer baccalaureate degrees or higher.

Looking at 2017 to 2021, Connecticut, New Mexico and Hawaii tied for third at 66.7%, though the sample sizes were far smaller than in New York and Pennsylvania.

The story changed when focusing on data exclusively from fiscal year 2021, where New Mexico led with 100.0% of its six schools running at a deficit. In addition, New York dropped to third, even though more than half (52.6%) of its state-funded universities ran in the red.

Hawaii ranked second, with two of its three public schools (66.7%) running at a deficit in 2021: the University of Hawaii-West Oahu at 3.3% and the University of Hawaii at Hilo at 2.1%.

States with the highest rate of underfunded public colleges in the 2021 fiscal year

StateSchoolsSchools with 2021 deficit% of schools with 2021 deficit
New Mexico66100.0%
New York382052.6%
New Hampshire5240.0%
South Carolina13430.8%
North Dakota6116.7%
New Jersey1317.7%

Source: LendingTree analysis of IPEDS data from the NCES. Note: This list was limited to four-year or greater institutions under primary control of their states that primarily offer baccalaureate degrees or higher.

While New York and New Mexico, respectively, led for the highest percentage of publicly funded universities running at deficits between 2017 and 2021 and during 2021 alone, Mississippi had the highest total deficit over the five studied years.

Mississippi schools had revenues that were $1.4 billion below operating costs between 2017 and 2021, representing a five-year deficit of 7.6%. The University of Mississippi had the highest deficit in the state during that period — higher, in fact, than the statewide deficit, at $1.8 billion, or 16.8%.

States with the highest combined public college deficits between the 2017 and 2021 fiscal years

State5-year revenues5-year expenses5-year net revenues5-year deficit
New Mexico$16,845,492,475$17,322,490,512-$476,998,037-2.8%
New York$69,858,387,609$71,032,535,752-$1,174,148,143-1.7%

Source: LendingTree analysis of IPEDS data from the NCES. Note: This list was limited to four-year or greater institutions under primary control of their states that primarily offer baccalaureate degrees or higher.

Again, things shifted when looking solely at data from 2021 — New Mexico led with a statewide deficit of $854.0 million, or 22.2%. Connecticut stayed in second, as it did in the fuller data set — though its deficit rose to 13.3% in 2021 rather than the 4.9% it saw over the five years.

For both periods, the Connecticut school with the highest deficit was Charter Oak State College, which came up $11.8 million short between 2017 and 2021 (a deficit of 13.7%) and $4.2 million short in 2021 alone (a deficit of 22.2%).

States with the highest combined public college deficits in the 2021 fiscal year

StateRevenuesExpensesNet revenuesDeficit
New Mexico$3,844,843,571$4,698,890,129-$854,046,558-22.2%
New York$14,999,896,049$15,354,752,295-$354,856,246-2.4%

Source: LendingTree analysis of IPEDS data from the NCES. Note: This list was limited to four-year or greater institutions under primary control of their states that primarily offer baccalaureate degrees or higher.

Many of the schools on the underfunded list are Minority-Serving Institutions — those specifically geared toward helping underserved racial populations access higher education and its socioeconomic benefits.

For instance, from the 2017-to-2021 data set, the institutions with the second-, third- and fourth-highest deficits — CUNY City College, CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Rutgers University-Camden, respectively — are part of the Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISI) program. (The two CUNY institutions are also Hispanic-Serving Institutions, or HSIs).

The school in that data set with the seventh-highest deficit, CUNY Medgar Evers College, is a Predominantly Black Institution (PBI), while the ninth-highest, New Mexico State University-Main Campus, is also an HSI.

Overall, 42 of the schools (32.1%) in the red over the five years are MSIs.

Such institutions are scattered across both lists. In the five-year data set, 31 HSIs are represented, along with:

  • 21 AANAPISIs
  • 3 PBIs
  • 2 Historically Black Colleges or Universities (HBCUs)
  • 2 Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions (ANNHs)
  • 1 Native American-Serving Nontribal Institution (NASNTI)

In 2021, nine of the top 10 schools on the list are MSIs, as are 41 of the 107 schools that appear on the list overall.

Since tuition makes up a large portion of universities’ revenue, schools across the U.S. were already suffering from the COVID-era decline in enrollment, says LendingTree student loan expert Michael Kitchen.

RELATED: Where student enrollment has grown the most in the past 20 years, by state and college (and how tuition has changed)

“As colleges run short on money, they usually raise tuition,” he says — which could lead even fewer students to enroll. (While many colleges are also funded by endowments, these tend to be slightly higher at private schools than public ones.)

In addition, revenue shortages can cause colleges to depress faculty salaries, which can make it difficult for schools to attract and retain talented educators.

“There could also be cuts to programs seen as nonessential to the school’s mission,” warns Kitchen — these could include enriching extracurriculars or certain kinds of coursework.

Indeed, students have been moving away from liberal arts and humanities programs: Many schools have seen precipitous drops in students enrolled as English majors, for instance. (Such students are often forced to focus on securing a well-paying job rather than choosing a major based on mind expansion or passion — largely in service to paying off their resultant debt.)

So it’s not a leap to say that the underfunding of public universities, coupled with the skyrocketing cost of tuition, could change the shape of American education — it already has.

LendingTree researchers compared revenue and expenditure data from the 2017 through 2021 fiscal years of 533 qualifying state institutions to determine which were run at a deficit for all five years combined, as well as 2021 individually.

To be included in the analysis, institutions had to:

  • Be identified as a four-year public institution that primarily grants baccalaureate degrees or above
  • Be under the primary control of its state
  • Have the relevant information available in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)

With federally funded schools in Washington, D.C., as an exception, locally, federally and territorially controlled institutions were excluded, as were the following state institutions for which relevant data wasn’t available:

  • Arizona State University Digital Immersion (Arizona)
  • University of Connecticut (Waterbury, Avery Point, Stamford and Hartford campuses, Connecticut)
  • Purdue University Global (Indiana)
  • Oregon State University-Cascades campus (Oregon)
  • Pennsylvania State University (Pennsylvania)
  • Lincoln University (Pennsylvania)
  • Temple University (Pennsylvania)
  • Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (El Paso campus, Texas)
  • University of Washington (Bothell and Tacoma campuses, Washington)
  • West Virginia University Institute of Technology (West Virginia)
  • University of Wisconsin (Milwaukee Flex and Parkside Flex campuses, Wisconsin)

Researchers analyzed the 2023 list of Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) from the U.S. Department of Education, via the Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions.

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