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July 25, 2012 10:00 AM The State Funding in State Colleges

By Daniel Luzer

The recession has been very hard on public university finances.

According to a Reuters article by Jilian Mincer, the problem isn’t just that parents have a hard time paying for college, they also have to pay more and the quality isn’t as good. As she writes:

Cash-strapped states slash funding to [state] schools just as attendance has soared. Places like Ohio State, Penn State and the University of Michigan now receive less than 7 percent of their budgets from state appropriations.
As a result, public universities — which historically have graduated the majority of U.S. college students — are eliminating programs, raising tuition and accepting more out-of-state students, who typically pay significantly higher rates.

What’s more, the education itself isn’t the same:

The state cutbacks also mean students are attending larger classes, frequently taught by part-time professors earning dismal salaries. In 2009, less than a quarter of all university faculty were full-time compared with 45 percent in 1975, according to the American Association of University Professors.

Some schools, those public institutions lucky enough to have large endowments, have been able to sit this latest cash flow problem out without hiking tuition. But that’s rare. Most schools deal with state budget cuts by laying off staff, increasing class size, and admitting more out-of-state students, who pay more.

Everyone knows that these budget cuts happen because the recession means the states aren’t taking in enough in taxes, but there’s no specific end in sight. What needs to happen for the more generous funding to return? Or is it never coming back? No one seems to have any firm idea on the scope of this problem.

Mincer reports that state colleges and universities have increased tuition and fees more than 70 percent over the last decade. So the problem actually predates the recession. What happens next?

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer

Comments

  • Snarki, child of Loki on July 25, 2012 3:42 PM:

    The data shows that state governments have decreased college support for all of the recessions since the mid-80's. After the recessions, they increase funding, but not by nearly enough to recover to the previous level of support per student.

    The support just keeps ratcheting downward.