Higher Education in the United States

Topic: Educational Stages
Words: 874 Pages: 3


Higher education in the United States is a debate topic with both opponents and proponents. The main concern is the high cost and low accessibility to higher education, which is a significant problem leading to downward social mobility. In addition, the quality of education in private and public institutions is different due to the various sources of financing. Many Americans are deprived of the opportunity to improve their social-economic status by receiving an adequate education, which emphasizes the existing inequality in society.

Discussion and Analysis

The Role of the Federal Government in Funding Post-Secondary Education

The federal government is responsible for providing students with equal access to post-secondary education, and broad-based funding is one of the state’s effective methods. It is assumed that a high-skilled labor force contributes to the country’s development and well-being, making financing higher and post-secondary education the priority for the federal authorities. At the same time, the federal government is not the only source of post-secondary education funding in the United States due to this sphere’s local and private economic support. According to the estimates, only 10% of the financing comes from the federal source (Baum et al., 2017). Therefore, the federal government has to support post-secondary education because it provides the country with top specialists in their spheres, but the amount of financial support is limited. As a result, federal financing is the stable source of money for educational institutions that are used for strategically important spheres, including the development of science and research.

Federal and Local Funding Sources’ Effect on Tuition Costs

Financial support from the federal and local governments is an effective way to decrease tuition costs. Subsidizing permits more students to apply for higher and post-secondary education because, otherwise, the payment for the tuition is excessive. The investigation shows that the price of higher education has increased faster than inflation in recent decades, making the degree even more difficult for most students. The cost of higher education has grown stably since the 1980s, which is problematic to cope with for the applicants (De Rudy & Salmon, 2019). Therefore, federal and local funding sources let students make this increase more moderate due to subsidizing.

The Revenue that Colleges Typically Receive From Federal Sources

Federal grants give higher education institutions the opportunity to develop their laboratories and conduct research work. Colleges typically receive more than 10% of the total revenue slightly from federal sources and use this money mainly on contracts. These activities do not usually give profits instantly, and it is the long-term investment that allows higher education to support its quality and improve its scientific basis (US Department of Education, 2021). The rest of the federal budget is used for individual grants for talented applicants who do not have the financial opportunity to study at the university (US Department of Education, 2021). In other words, science is the primary sphere that requires money from federal sources.

Revenue Sources Differences Between Private Universities and Public State Institutions

Private universities and colleges usually receive funding from private donations, while public educational institutions receive financing from federal and state budgets. Practice shows that private educational institutions often have more donations than public education institutions. They receive money from influential people who live in a particular city or from affluent parents of students who study for a specific college or university. As a result, private universities and colleges have more opportunities to provide their students with extra-curriculum activities, the best teachers, and technological solutions for the classroom compared to public institutions (Zilanawala, Bécares, & Benner, 2019). It leads to the significant problem of social and economic division between students of different colleges and universities.

In most cases, public institutions provide educational opportunities for students from less affluent families, and the overall quality of education suffers due to a lack of financing. Private colleges and universities, in their turn, provide educational opportunities for students from the upper middle class and affluent families. These distinctions make the social gap significant, which enhances inequality in the American community (Tong, Standen, & Sotiriou, 2018). In addition, the difference in the quality of education in private and public colleges and universities aggravates these differences and contributes to low social mobility in the United States. Therefore, the source of financing directly impacts the quality of education and the demographics of students in college and university.


Summing up, funding higher education in the United States is a complicated topic that leads to numerous social discussions. The main issue is that public and private education receive unequal financing due to various sources of economic support, which determines their differences. As a result, private educational institutions can hire the best teachers, providing their students with innovative technological facilities, extra-curriculum activities, and other critical components that constitute the essence of high-quality education. Public educational facilities, in turn, receive a limited sum from the federal or local government, which restricts the opportunities of the school and the teachers. No need to say that distinct levels of financing lead to the differentiation between students who attend public and private educational institutions. The story of education correlates with the income level of the student’s family, which makes the future professional development of the student predetermined by their social and economic class.


Baum, S., Harris, D. N., Kelly, A., & Mitchell, T. (2017). A principled federal role in higher education. Urban Institute, 1-16. Web.

De Rudy, V. & Salmon, J. (2019). Reevaluating the effects of federal financing in higher education. Mercatus Center. Web.

Tong, V. C. H., Standen, A., & Sotiriou, M. (2018). Shaping higher education with students: Ways to connect research and teaching. UCL Press.

US Department of Education. (2021). What do universities do with the billions they receive from the government? USA Facts. Web.

Zilanawala, A., Bécares, L., & Benner, A. (2019). Race/ethnic inequalities in early adolescent development in the United Kingdom and United States. Demographic Research, 40, 121–154.

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