Report: Southern states cutting higher ed funding the most

A new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) shines a spotlight on how far funding for higher education has fallen since the start of the recession. Particularly for states in the south, funding “is down by more than 35 percent since the start of the recession.”

Overall tuition at public four-year colleges is up almost 30 percent since 2007. Even worse for students who attend schools in the south– like Florida, Georgia and Louisiana–the report states that tuition skyrocketed 60 percent.

Considering the government has cut Pell Grants and wage growth has been stagnant, such a steep rise in tuition has likely priced many students out of attending many schools that continue to raise tuition.

In addition to the cut in funding, the CBPP’s report also shows that schools have also been forced to layoff faculty, cease certain courses, shutter library services, and completely close down campuses.

But the report isn’t necessarily full of bad economic news for colleges and universities. Policy makers may restore pre-recession level funding if they simply chose to raise revenue. Of course that means some tax increases, but because many state legislatures are run by conservatives, that suggestion isn’t likely to fly in Republican controlled House and Senate chambers.

Other nuggets included in the report: 48 states have slashed per student funding, spending on higher education is down 20 percent nationwide since the start of the recession, Louisiana is trending towards cutting per student funding by 50 percent, and Kentucky chipped nearly $200 off of per student funding last year.

On the side of good news, some states did increase funding for higher education back to pre-recession levels. Alaska, Wyoming, and North Dakota all were in the blue compared to the rest of the nation.

To balance state budgets and keep the government funding, many lawmakers made the decision to stall funding for higher education. In turn, that made many colleges and universities raise tuition, cut faculty, and make other moves in an effort to save money.

Now we stand at a crossroads due to those decisions. Students are being priced out of attending post-secondary institutions, the quality of higher education has been compromised, and we’re still grappling with how to properly keep many colleges afloat.

This, unfortunately, is the price we pay for bad policy.

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