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Budget Round Up: States Address Higher Ed Affordability, Research Capacity, Workforce

January 23, 2014

Several common themes surrounding higher education have emerged as governors across the country unveil investment priorities for the upcoming fiscal year or biennium. In many states, governors have proposed more funding to increase affordability by freezing tuition or creating new scholarship funds. Support for expanding research capacity, technology-related infrastructure and job training in high-demand industries are some of the proposed measures aimed at competitiveness.  

College Affordability

Governors in several states are requesting additional funds for higher education in exchange for holding tuition steady. The FY15 budget outlined by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal proposes new funding streams to encourage more students to attend technical schools. For example, $5 million in new lottery funds would provide additional financial assistance above what is covered by the state’s HOPE scholarship for students pursuing in-demand certificates or training programs. A new Zell Miller grant also would be established to provide full tuition for students in technical schools who maintain a 3.5 grade point average, and the state’s traditional HOPE scholarship would be increased by 3 percent.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad outlined his adjusted FY15 budget, which provides $26 million in additional funding for the Board of Regents. Of this funding, $19.2 million is slated to hold tuition steady for a second year at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa. In Rhode Island, Gov. Lincoln Chafee has proposed an increase of $11.7 million, or 6.5 percent from the FY14 enacted level, for public higher education in the FY15 budget. This includes $10 million to continue the governor’s no tuition increase policy initiative for a second year. Universities in South Dakota would receive an additional $4 million and technical institutions would receive an additional $1 million to freeze tuition under Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s FY15 budget plan

Expanding Research Capacity and Technology-Related Infrastructure

A grant program established last year in Colorado to promote growth in high-tech industries such as aerospace, advanced manufacturing and bioscience, would receive $5 million, the same as last year, under Gov. John Hickenlooper’s FY15 budget. The Advanced Industries Accelerator programs include proof-of-concept grants, early stage capital, infrastructure funding and grants for expanding into export markets.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer wants to put into place a steady funding stream for the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), a nonprofit research institute focused on commercializing genomics research. Through a five-year, $15 million commitment, the institute would be better equipped to leverage outside funding, according to the governor’s budget documents. In the last two fiscal years, TGen received grants of $4.1 million and $2 million, respectively, from the Arizona Biomedical Research Commission.

In addition to new and expanded scholarship programs at Georgia technical schools, Gov. Deal also wants to establish a Science Learning center on the University of Georgia’s South Campus providing state-of-the-art facilities. The budget includes $44.7 million for construction of the center aimed at expanding the pipeline for students in the STEM disciplines.

Similarly, Rhode Island Gov. Chaffee wants to fund the first phase of renovation and building additions to the existing College of Engineering complex at the University of Rhode Island. The measure would be posed as a $125 million general obligation bond referendum and, if approved by lawmakers, would be placed on the November ballot. 

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead outlined a two-year, $3.3 billion spending plan that includes $10.5 million for the University of Wyoming’s High Bay research facility, $8 million to strengthen UW’s engineering program, and $5 million to establish an endowed chair in petroleum engineering at UW, reports the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.

Workforce Training

The Iowa budget proposal also includes $2 million for students pursuing careers in STEM fields, and $1million for apprenticeship job training programs.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant recommends in his FY15 budget an $8 million increase to community colleges, including $1.2 million for 22 new, dual enrollment programs and $3.75 million for new career and technical workforce programs.  

Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Mississippi, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Wyominghigher ed, state budget, workforce, aerospace, bio, manufacturing, stem