Between 2000 and 2010, U.S. public colleges and universities experienced widespread and uneven changes in funding from state and local appropriations. We find that over this period annual decreases in statewide appropriations led to lower public enrollment and higher for-profit enrollment (with no effect on enrollment overall), as well as increased student borrowing. In an analysis of mechanisms, we detect effects on spending, tuition, and capacity in the public sector. Altogether, the results reveal that core institutional resources affect the types of schools that students attend and yield new evidence of substitution between the public and for-profit sectors.

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