This article surveys the history of U.S. higher education finance with an emphasis on the post-World War II period and particularly developments in recent decades. The U.S. system’s constitutionally based delegation of responsibility for education to the states ensures great diversity across fifty states in a large country and this is described, along with the variables associated with key state differences. The article also examines recent developments, including the general reduction in state budgetary support for institutions, the shift in state support toward student grants relative to institutional support, and the rise of the performance accountability movement tied to state funding. American governments are seeking more than ever from higher education while providing lower levels of financial support.
Keywords: United States, higher education, finance, decentralization, diversity, decline