Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

First Advisor

Matthew R. Fairholm


Adequacy of funding for public institutions of higher education in the United States is significantly important to an array of stakeholders, including, state legislative bodies, decision-makers in the arena of higher education, and notably, consumers of higher education. State allocation of resources for higher education demonstrates variability, complicating accurate programmatic planning and budgeting. To assist higher education officials in the task of budget forecasting and resource adequacy, this study will help fill the void in understanding the connections between the political composition of the states’ legislative bodies and funding levels for differing types of higher education institutions. While significant prior research has delved into questions surrounding higher education funding from the vantage point of political considerations, the question of differential impacts predicated upon institutional type remains underexplored. To address this problem, this study examines political factors influencing higher education funding while differentiating between institutional types according to a grouped Carnegie Classification framework. State funding and legislative data derived from educational, governmental, and professional sources provide the basis for quantitative examination of the relationship between legislative party majority and absence or preference for funding a specific type(s) of higher education. The research results indicate that contrary to some prior research, no partisan preferences for higher education funding across institutional categories is discernable during this study’s period. This finding is consistent with hypotheses emanating from the literature of comparative political science wherein the argument is advanced that under conditions of mass higher education partisan differences will be diminished. This study also confirms that two-year colleges inhabit a modestly favorable policy space, as logics for their support transcend partisan preferences, and that these institutions comport more closely to the underlying assumption of the neoliberal ideology undergirding current societal values. The findings suggest that a reversal of the longstanding weakening of support for higher education involves more than the ascendency of one political party, but rather, a recalibration of the purposes and values of higher education, realized by returning to the tenets of classic liberalism.

Subject Categories

Higher Education | Political Science


Higher education funding, Political composition, Institutional types, Legislative party majority, Partisan preferences

Number of Pages



University of South Dakota



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