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Report Urges Policymakers to Reinvest in Higher Education

May 06, 2014

As a result of deep cuts to higher education funding following the recession, issues surrounding affordability, access to programs and services, and quality could jeopardize the nation’s competitiveness. A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds that although a majority of states have begun to restore some of the cuts, 48 states are spending less per student than they did before the recession.

The authors present data on funding for higher education pre- and post-recession and call on policymakers to rebuild their higher education systems by rejecting tax cuts and instead consider options for new revenue. In response to funding cuts during the recession and a slow recovery, higher education institutions increased tuition, eliminated faculty positions and merged programs. For example, Arizona’s university system cut more than 2,100 positions, eliminated 182 colleges, schools, programs and departments, and closed eight extension campuses.

Rapidly rising tuition also is blamed for more student debt and for deterring low-income students from enrolling in college.

On the upside, spending is up 7.2 percent, on average, among states that have increased higher education funding over the past year. Ten states – California, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Washington – increased funding by more than 10 percent.

While policymakers are urged to begin reinvesting in higher education as an economic imperative for the country, the authors also acknowledge constraints lawmakers face while balancing funding other important state priorities. Many states, including Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin, are considering or have made sizable tax cuts that the authors say can stifle higher education investments. Instead, policymakers should consider options for raising additional revenue, according to the authors. These options include repealing ineffective tax deductions, exemptions and credits, rolling back past years’ tax cuts, or raising certain tax rates.

higher ed, education, state budget