Friday ReadsPosted: May 8, 2015
I’m trying to get grades in so this will be super short. One of the most worrying trends to me is the disinvestment in public education. An important study was released that shows that a college education must be funded primarily by students or their families. I’ve believed for some time that getting rid of higher education was a goal of many conservative politicians because an educated person is a clear and present danger to despots. First, I’d like to share the study and a few articles written about it. Then, I’ll show you how that’s been brought to fruition here in Louisiana by Bobby Jindal and his slavish relationship to Grover Norquist whose goal in life is to shrink government so you can drown it in a bathtub.
I think this study and its findings are important because the incredible increase in standards of living that came about during the 1950s and 1960s was partially due to the GI Bill and the opportunity it provided to so many poor and working class men to attend college. Education is a path to better jobs and to smarter voting electorate. It’s necessary for a functioning democracy.
As a result of this sharp decrease in state funding, more than half of education and related expenses at public universities is now paid by students’ tuition.
“Public higher education in this country no longer exists,” said Hiltonsmith. “Because more than half of core educational expenses at ‘public’ 4-year universities are now funded through tuition, a private source of capital, they have effectively become subsidized private institutions. To eliminate the pile of debt that most students must now borrow just to finance their education, we need comprehensive policy reform that views higher education as a necessity.”
The study finds that decreases in state funding to their public universities represents the overwhelming reason why tuition is so high and why so many students have to take huge student loans to facilitate their education.
Commitment to public education has been an American social contract for quite some time. I can’t help but think that it’s actually part of a bigger plot to privatize as much as possible and to further close the path of upward mobility.
A new Demos report, Pulling Up the Higher Ed Ladder: Myth and Reality in the Crisis of College Affordability by Demos Senior Policy Analyst Robbie Hiltonsmith, finds that declining state support was responsible for nearly 80 percent of the rise in net tuition between 2001 and 2011. Examining public university revenue and spending data, he determines that rising costs for instruction and student services is responsible for much of the remainder, largely due to growing healthcare costs. Hiltonsmith also disproves the theory that colleges are spending beyond what is necessary to support their core academic functions, commonly known as administrative bloat. Increased spending on administration accounted for only six percent of tuition hikes.
“While administrative bloat is a popular theory, the data shows otherwise,” said Hiltonsmith. “This myth is not only blatantly untrue, but takes attention away from the real problem: states aren’t investing in their students. Instead, they’re saddling them with crippling, life-long debt.”
Research institutions employ just seven more staff per thousand students than they did since 1991, and 17 fewer than in 2001. The relative number of full-time faculty has remained constant and the number of executives and administrators has decreased relative to the size of the student body. New technology needs explain much of the increase in professional staff. However, universities have also shifted to employing more adjunct professors as a cost-cutting measure, a problematic trend whose effects have been well-documented.
I put this study downthread in yesterday’s post. NW Luna provided a link to the situation in Washington State–a liberal blue state–that has not bucked the trend.
The cost of educating a student at the University of Washington is about $400 less today, in inflation adjusted dollars, than it was 20 years ago. As executives and directors of large business and philanthropic organizations in Washington state, our board members can attest that this could not have happened without a strong commitment to efficiency and cost control.
The next time anyone questions why public university tuition is rising faster than inflation, remember this: Twenty years ago, the state government paid 80 percent of the cost of a student’s education and a student paid 20 percent. Today, the state pays 30 percent of the cost, and the student pays 70 percent. The state has systematically disinvested in our children’s future, and we view this trend with disappointment and alarm.
We truly appreciate the hard work of the governor, the Legislature and many others who work in the business, civic and education communities who this year helped put a halt to further cuts in public higher education and gave us the tools and flexibility needed to help us manage through the current crisis. However, losing half of our state funding over just a few years has radically and unduly shifted the burden of financing the higher-education system to students, who are taking on more and more family and personal debt. This debt load restrains the ability of many Washingtonians to fully pursue life’s opportunities.
Public higher education is an essential ingredient of a functioning democracy and a healthy economy, but the current financial model for its funding is broken and not sustainable. If Washington is to maintain affordable access to quality higher education for its citizens, something has to change.
Louisiana is leading the pack in basically shutting down its universities. Governor Bobby Jindal’s fiscal mismanagement of the state has left all of its institutions of higher education in desperate straights. At this writing, nearly every university in the state is on its way to financial exigency which is basically bankruptcy for a public entity. Yet, this is a time when more educated workers are necessary.
F. King Alexander, the president of the Louisiana State University system, said Louisiana State (LSU) would consider declaring financial exigency—the equivalent of bankruptcy for academic institutions. And Alexander said as many as a dozen campuses throughout Louisiana could ultimately have to do the same.The cutbacks would mean an uncertain fate for all of the roughly three-dozen institutions within the state’s four university “systems,” including Louisiana state’s 10 campuses, the University of Louisiana’s nine, and 14 community and technical colleges. These institutions serve roughly 260,000 students total.
Declines in per-student legislative appropriations for public higher-ed institutions are almost ubiquitous across the U.S., a trend that traces back to the recession. Though levels have started to bounce back in recent years, the average state’s per-student allocation is still 23 percent less than it was before the economy took a hit. Generally, the federal government and taxpaying students end up shouldering that cost. Meanwhile, according to 2012 data, students are for the first time in years covering a larger chunk of their college tuition than their state governments are.
“States are getting out of the public higher-education business,” Alexander told me. Alexander, a vocal advocate for stronger state investment in higher ed, says he’s optimistic that the legislature will somehow cobble together a solution. (It has until June 11, when Louisiana’s legislative session ends.) But even if lawmakers pass measures that would offset most of the shortfall, including a number proposed by Jindal, state higher-ed funding would still be cut by 32 percent, Alexander said.
By 2025 six in 10 adults in the U.S., according to one report, will have to have a postsecondary credential if the country is to maintain its economic edge. But if current trends continue over the next few decades, most state university systems would soon lose all funding from their states. A new analysis by the Pell Institute predicts that, assuming trends persist, in 2025 Colorado would become the first state to allocate zero funding to higher ed; Iowa would follow in 2029, then Michigan (2030), then Arizona (2032). Louisiana (2027) would be No. 2 on the list—if the deficit is miraculously eliminated this year. Otherwise, according to King, even a 32 percent reduction would put Louisiana in front of Colorado. Most states wouldn’t appropriate any university funding by 2050.
Louisiana’s universities are the canaries in a bigger coal mine. It should serve as a warning to any one who cares about access to higher education for all.
So, I’m going back to grading and I leave this as an open thread for you.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?