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More Funding for Higher Ed, STEM in State Budget Plans

December 20, 2013

As the outlook for general revenue funds improves in many states, governors are looking to boost investment in higher education and STEM as a means for growing the economy and enhancing the workforce. Universities' economic return to states can be quite impactful. A recent study commissioned by the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, found the state's 15 public universities have a $23.9 billion economic footprint — collectively supporting more than $12 billion in earnings in 2012. Governors in Alaska, Missouri, Utah, Virginia, and Washington recently unveiled budget recommendations for the upcoming fiscal year or biennium calling for additional funds to support university-based initiatives including research, infrastructure, tuition freezes, and funding to graduate more students in STEM fields.

In Alaska, Gov. Sean Parnell proposed a $5 million digital teaching initiative for middle- and high-school students as part of the FY15 budget plan. The three-year demonstration project begins with funding to expand capacity of digital teaching already underway in three school districts during year one. The project will continue by adding two more districts in year two with a goal of identifying best practices. Through the initiative, the governor hopes to increase students' access to high quality teachers, increase the number of students taking high-level math and science courses, and increase the graduation rate.

Holding tuition steady at Missouri colleges and universities during the 2014-15 academic year, and additional funding for higher education are major priorities for Gov. Jay Nixon in the upcoming legislative session. As part of his budget proposal that will be submitted next month, the governor is requesting a 5 percent increase for the state's public universities in exchange for a pledge to hold tuition flat, reports the News-Leader. The money would be awarded as part of a performance-based funding model approved by lawmakers last session.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert is requesting new ongoing funds and one-time investments for higher education initiatives within the FY15 budget as part of the state's goal to increase to 66 percent the number of adults with a college degree or certificate by 2020. This includes more funding for enrollment, scholarships, and outcome-based performance. Additionally, the governor is asking for $57.4 million to fund a new science building at Weber State University and $3 million for the STEM Action Center. Approved by lawmakers last session, the center was established within the Governor's Office of Economic Development to coordinate grant opportunities, provide resources to assist students and teachers, develop industry-government partnerships, and provide more pathways to STEM-related occupations (see the March 20, 2013 issue of the Digest).

Although he will be leaving office in less than a month, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell proposed a new, two-year budget proposal for the state that builds on his "Top Jobs" legislation — a plan to generate 100,000 additional college degrees and certifications. The 2014-16 biennial budget includes $150 million provided directly to higher education institutions, of which $63 million is directed toward incentive funding to graduate more students in STEM-H fields and increase graduation and retention rates at colleges and universities. Another $21 million is dedicated to university-based research initiatives. Read the governor's press release...

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee unveiled new strategies for maintaining a competitive workforce as part of the supplemental budget for the 2013-15 biennium. The governor wants a one-year extension for two R&D tax credits, during which time a working group will develop strategies for future tax incentives or ways to invest directly in higher education to produce more high-skilled graduates. The current tax credits are set to expire in January 2015.

Additionally, the budget funds STEM and aerospace-related manufacturing priorities in K-12 and higher education. This includes: $1 million for a STEM Alliance that connects businesses in STEM industries with school districts; $300,000 to develop math and science curricula for career and technical education courses; $500,000 for a School of Advanced Manufacturing and Aerospace at Washington State University; and $500,000 to develop University of Washington business operation plans for a new, advanced manufacturing and product development facility.


Alaska, Missouri, Utah, Virginia, Washingtonstate budget, higher ed, stem