When States Cut University Funding, What’s A School To Do?

University FundingA Washington-based policy institute has recently published a report which describes a grim outlook on nationwide spending on higher education. The report describes that reduced per-student spending by specific states has contributed to the increase of tuition costs across the nation, further contributing to more obstacles for both active and potential students.

Of all the states to have made such cuts, Kentucky ranks as the 6th worst.  Since the recession of 2008, Kentucky has reduced state funding per student by 32 percent. That is the equivalent of approximately $2,771. But while the overall national economy has improved, Kentucky is now only among three to continue making such cuts; including Arkansas and Vermont.

The report ascribes: “As states have slashed higher education funding, the price of attending public colleges has risen significantly faster than the growth in median income. For the average student, increases in federal student aid and the availability of tax credits have not kept up, jeopardizing the ability of many to afford the college education that is key to their long-term financial success.”

“As Kentucky continues to cut, we start reversing all the gains made by past education improvements,” warns Kentucky Center for Economic Policy research and policy associate Ashley Spalding. The report co-author goes on to say, “We are sliding backwards, when what we should be doing is investing in our education institutions, which in turn is investment in our communities. We should follow the lead of the majority of states and start increasing funding for higher education again, instead of balancing our state budgets on the backs of students.”

Of course, logic says that if state pending declines, the entity must recoup those losses from some other source: hence, tuition increases. But, this has also resulted in the need to trim the fat, and now some schools are cutting faculty.  Northern Kentucky University (NKU), for example, has just announced a plan to cut 31 empty faculty and six faculty positions as well as 32 vacant staff positions and 36 actual staff to fill an $8 million budget gap.

“The financial challenges we face are not new,” argues NKU President Geoffrey Mearns. “In fact, each year since 2008, due to increases in pension costs and reductions in state support, we have been forced to reduce our investment in academic programs, student support services, and salaries and benefits for faculty and staff.”