Report cites economic impacts of funding cuts

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A report released Tuesday warns that the recent trend of cuts in state funding for higher education not only harms the quality of student education but also poses a risk to state economies.

The report, published by the left-leaning think tank Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, encourages states to reverse the trend of diminishing funding for institutions of higher education by raising revenue through taxes.

According to the report, states across the nation are spending an average of 28 percent, or $2,353, less per student than when the recession hit in 2008. Wyoming and North Dakota are the only states that have increased per-student state funding for education since 2008.

“Sharp increases in tuition have accelerated longer-term trends of reducing college affordability and shifting costs from states to students,” the report stated.
Funding cuts to the UC and CSU systems have a twofold effect on the state’s economy, according to Hans Johnson, co-director of research at the Public Policy Institute of California. Enrollment caps that restrict access to a college degree not only reduce the supply of skilled labor but also lead to more widespread unemployment, straining government welfare programs, he said.

“Proposition 30 and a strengthening economic recovery will lead to additional funds for the UC and CSU systems,” Johnson said. “But this is still small compared to the original cuts.”

In the face of continued cuts, Johnson said extensive polling by the PPIC has revealed Californians favor additional funding for higher education.

To cope with shortfalls in funding, officials at California’s four-year public colleges have increased tuition by an average of 72 percent relative to 2008 tuition levels — second only to Arizona’s average increase of 78 percent.

For more than 20 years, state appropriations to universities have steadily declined, although that decline has sharpened since the 2008 recession, according to UC spokesperson Steve Montiel. Currently, the UC system receives only about 11 percent of its total funding from the state.

“This year, we’re getting the same level of funding from the state that we got in 1997, when there were 75,000 fewer students and one less campus,” he said.
But Montiel said that tuition increases have only made up for about a third of the total UC funding shortfall. In recent years, the university has been forced to lay off thousands of employees, reduce salaries, institute statewide furlough programs and cut programs and funding for campus departments.

“We’ve managed to maintain the quality of education on our campuses,” Montiel said. “There’s no doubt about it that increased tuition from out-of-state and international students has helped maintain quality for all students. But there have been programs cut and faculty positions that have gone unfilled.”

Jeremy Gordon covers higher education. Contact him at [email protected]