Study: state suffered dramatic drop in funding for higher education

State funding for California higher education dramatically decreased by $1.5 billion between fiscal years 2010-11 and 2011-12 as part of a nationwide decline in education funding, according to a report released Monday.

Among what the annual Grapevine study deemed the “megastates,” California suffered the largest decrease in state funding over the past two years, dropping from about $11.16 billion in state support in fiscal year 2010-11 to about $9.66 billion in fiscal year 2011-12 for a total decrease of 13.5 percent.

The report — published by Illinois State University’s Center for the Study of Education Policy and the State Higher Education Executive Officers — compiled tax support data for higher education institutions nationwide.

Paul Lingenfelter,  president of the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, said in a statement that California’s $1.5 billion decline accounts for 26 percent of the national $6 billion decline, including federal stimulus funds.

State funding for public higher education nationwide decreased by 7.6 percent between fiscal years 2010-11 and 2011-12, as 41 states received less funding than they had in the previous year, the report states.

The report’s editor, James C. Palmer, said the downturn in state support reflects the steepest decline in six years and comes as funding yielded by the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — which supplemented state support for education from 2009 to 2011 — is running out.

“The downturn that we registered in this year’s survey reflects a diminished attenuated capacity for states to fund education,” Palmer said. “The tax revenues just aren’t there, and there are lots of other competing demands on state budgets, including health care costs.”

The next largest decrease in funding after California among the “megastates” occurred in Florida, with a decrease of 12 percent, while Illinois experienced a growth in funding of 12.1 percent.

UC Office of the President spokesperson Dianne Klein said the report’s findings did not come as a surprise and reflect the UC’s own data findings.

“Here we have the world’s best public university system, and we’re just getting chainsawed,” Klein said. “Public education is dying, and perhaps we are reaching a tipping point.”

According to Palmer, the report shows a conflict between increasing aspirations for higher education and a lack of funding for that education.

“This report emphasizes what those of us who support higher education in California know firsthand,” said Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, in an email statement. “If we want our state to stay the educational leader, we have to think big and reinvest in our universities.”

Jamie Applegate covers higher education.

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