According to Chad Aldeman of Bellwether Education Partners, 10 states spend more on teacher pensions than on all public colleges and universities combined: California, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oregon and Pennsylvania.
According to the Cook Political Report, eight of those 10 states lean Democratic.
"Like the insatiable Pac-Man, pensions are eating further and further into state and local education budgets, eating up dollars that could be spent on lots of other things," Aldeman says. "That's true for all public services, but higher education is uniquely harmed by rising pension costs." He says these 10 states are "near the bottom of the list in terms of responsibly funding their pension plans."
As pension costs continue to rise, higher education budgets will likely lose out to pensions, partially because pensions are politically harder to reform. Aldeman says higher education specifically is on the chopping block because universities can always raise prices on students, because there is a lack of federal incentives for state governments to spend more on colleges, and because few state constitutions mandate spending on higher education.