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August 29, 2014 11:27 AM Public Higher Education: Another Casualty of the Great Recession

By Ed Kilgore

Over last weekend we published a Ten Miles Square piece by Janet Napolitano, the former Arizona governor and Secretary of Homeland Security who is now president of the University of California system. I wanted to draw attention to it for two reasons: first, Napolitano restates the basic case for public higher education as a wise investment (noting the high performance of UC branches in various WaMo College Rankings, as well she should). But second, she also reminds us that the deep cuts in higher ed funding by state legislatures that occurred nearly everywhere during the Great Recession haven’t been fully restored much of anywhere, despite radically improved state fiscal climates.

[I]t is troubling to consider that at some point in the last six years, 41 state legislatures in the United States slashed funding for their public universities and colleges.
Sadly, funding remains constrained for public higher education, despite an economy that slowly grows more robust. Only 14 states have re-invested in higher education at levels equal to or above their pre-recession levels. Last year, 20 states actually cut more funding from their public universities and colleges.

The skyrocketing public college and university tuitions we’ve all become accustomed to seeing are the direct result of this reduced state support. And it’s worth remembering that no matter how much progress we make in controlling college costs (and student debt levels) through various reforms won’t much matter if state legislatures perpetually pocket the savings and disinvest in higher ed.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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