School Spirit: Legislator School Ties and State Funding for Higher Education
47 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2018 Last revised: 25 Apr 2021
Date Written: July 2018
We explore a new mechanism to understand state funding for public colleges and universities by leveraging data on the educational experiences of state legislators, specifically if and where they received postsecondary education. Using novel, hand-collected data from 2002 through 2014, we provide comprehensive documentation for the first time in the literature on the educational backgrounds of state legislators. We find a statistically significant, positive association between the share of legislators who attended their states' public institutions and state funding for their entire public higher-education system. We also find a similar positive relationship between the share of state legislators who attended particular campuses of the state's public university system and funding for those campuses. This relationship is more pronounced among publicly educated legislators who represent legislative districts close to their alma mater's district, and becomes most consequential when the legislator's district contains his or her alma mater. We discuss the implications of our findings for academic studies on how politics and legislators' personal experiences in influence support for higher education.
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