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Unit-Based Funding Approach

Unit-based funding is one of the three most common state secondary Career Technical Education (CTE) approaches that fall under the categorical funding model. With this approach, states distribute funds based on a set of educational inputs (and their related costs), known as units, used to deliver CTE in Local Education Agencies (LEAs). Units may include pupils, instructors, equipment, materials, transportation or administrators.

Unit-based formulas may provide different rates of reimbursement for CTE programs and learners. Seven states — Alabama, Delaware, Idaho, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri and Washington — use a unit-based approach.


  • Flexible design that allows funding to be aligned to learner and program area needs; addresses learner-based incentives
  • Recognition of the higher cost of delivering not only CTE generally but also different CTE programs


  • State formulas and calculations may be overly complex
  • Formulas must be regularly assessed to ensure that they reflect the true cost of program units

Visit the Resources page for a national overview of state secondary CTE funding trends and a case study of Massachusetts’ state application of the unit-based formula.

*Advance CTE used the definition of unit-based funding found in State Strategies for Financing Career and Technical Education for this project.