States Cut Higher Education Funding By $6 Billion

Although the economy has shown signs of improvement, an Illinois State University report shows 41 state governments cut a combined $6 billion, or 7.6%, in funding for higher education from the 2011 to the 2012 fiscal years.

The annual report, conducted by the Grapevine Project , indicates an overall decline in education spending of nearly 4% in the last five years. The recent decline in spending is because of the expiration of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009, which allocated $97.4 billion in grants. Excluding the funds lost by the ARRA, the decline in funding was 4.1%.

Nineteen states cut funding by more than 10%. New Hampshire experienced the largest cut in funding as it slashed its budged by 41.3%. Arizona and Wisconsin also saw a more than 20% decline in its allocated educated expense, followed by Louisiana, Colorado and Tennessee. However, not all states slashed their education budgets. Nine states actually increased their higher education funding from 2011 to 2012, with Rhode Island leading the pack with a 13.1% increase. Illinois and North Dakota also saw increased their funding by more than 10%. But overall, the trend seemed to be more cuts in more states.

"The federal stimulus funds, provided to cushion the effects of the recession, were helpful in 2009, 2010, and 2011, but they were virtually depleted by 2012," Paul Lingenfelter, State Higher Education Executive Officers Association president, said in a statement.

Lingenfelter added the reduction in funds could cause higher tuition costs, fewer classes, and more students in each classroom. "More worrying, however, is the potential loss of access for students with significant financial need as state support for financial aid also declines. Such loss of access and change in resident-nonresident mix will have implications for the availability of an adequately educated workforce in those states."

The cuts come at a time when many are concerned about the future of American higher education, and those concerns are well founded, as the United States ranks 10th in the number of adults aged 25 to 35 who hold at least an associate degree, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. While American universities are receiving less financial aid from their state governments, other countries, such as China and South Korea, are heavily investing in their colleges. That being said, American schools occupy 17 of the top 20 spots in the 2010 Academic Ranking of World Universities.

"As we face the future, regardless of the pace of economic recovery and growth, schools and colleges, governments, and citizens all must confront competing priorities and use their money in ways that will advance the future economic prosperity and well-being of the American people," Lingenfelter said. "We cannot compete in the global economy without financing educational opportunity and attainment."

For your reference, here are thetop 10 fund-cutting states from FY 2011 to FY 2012, according to the Grapevine Project’s survey of fiscal year 2012:

  1. New Hampshire – 41.3%
  2. Arizona – 25.1%
  3. Wisconsin – 20.9%
  4. Louisiana – 18.5%
  5. Colorado – 15.4%
  6. Tennessee – 15%
  7. Virginia – 14.7%
  8. Oklahoma/Washington – 14.5%
  9. Nevada – 14%
  10. Pennsylvania – 13.4%

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