Thursday, March 07, 2013

Public Higher Ed Per-Student Spending Drops To 25-Year Low

When I was a kid, the state of Kentucky placed great value on a more highly educated workforce than is the case today. Seventy percent of my college-going costs were supported by the state.  I left UK after four years with a degree and no debt, ready to contribute to the economy.

Today's students find that the state's support has slipped to about a third, so tuition has skyrocketed in response. Today's students tend to leave college after five years with a mound of debt.

This from The Huffington Post:
The amount being spent per student by public colleges and universities has fallen to its lowest level in at least 25 years, a result of state budget cuts a new report warns are rapidly eroding the nation’s educational edge over its international competitors.

The report, by the Boulder, Colorado-based State Higher Education Executive Officers, or SHEEO, shows that state and local financial support for public universities and colleges fell 7 percent last year, on top of a 9 percent drop the year before. And while enrollment also fell slightly—a result, the organization’s president said, not of lower demand, but of higher tuition—it’s still higher than in 2008, when the steep budget cuts began.

The result is that the amount being spent, per student, is $5,896, the lowest level in the 25 years since it’s been tracked by SHEEO. And a much higher proportion of that is being charged to families in the form of tuition than is being covered by states.

Nearly half of the cost of public higher education is now borne by students in the form of tuition, more than double the proportion of 25 years ago, SHEEO said.

“Students are paying more, while public institutions are receiving substantially less money to educate them,” said SHEEO President Paul Lingenfelter, who said the annual decreases in funding and increases in tuition were the biggest in his 41-year career in higher education.

Lingenfelter said that last year’s decline in enrollment, which has been previously detailed by The Hechinger Report, was a result of higher tuition and, in some states, enrollment caps imposed by institutions in response to lower legislative subsidies.

State and local support for higher education last year was $81.2 billion, When inflation is taken into account, the one-year decline in funding was 9 percent.

Since 2008, the amount collected from students in the form of tuition and fees has grown from $41 billion a year to about $60 billion.

Public universities and colleges enroll more than 70 percent of all U.S. students.

“Other countries are rapidly improving the postsecondary education of their citizens,” said Marshall Hill, director of the Nebraska Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education and chairman of SHEEO’s executive committee. “If the United States falls further behind in either quality or the number of students who enroll and graduate it will not be easy to catch up.”


Anonymous said...

Seems like the government has increasingly been quick to impose increasing regulations and expectations these last few years and equally fast to reduce its support. You can't stop paying for the groceries but expect the chef to cook more complicated receipes for you.

Keep hearing this phrase of "self-sustainability" but I have got no idea what it means other than expecting bloated university administration to decrease resources and increase work load for those who are actually supplying the services to students.

Folks, the online virtual universities are growing and our budgets are shrinking. I think they are showing us that we really don't have to have sports teams, student rec centers and performing arts for a person to get a degree. Not that long ago, the students did that for themselves through their own organizations and actions and didn't require university departments and supports to oversee every aspect of their existance. Just because UK, UL or Western does something shouldn't be EKU's justification for spending out of a need to compete - leaderships creation of programs, student social supports and satelite campuses are competing us into the ground financially.

Anonymous said...

Just wait, the university fiscal folks aren't going to just impact state school budgets, but the policy decisions are going to change the cultures of these schools. With state coffers contibuting less, student tuition is going to not only power but steer the direction of the university vessel. Three course semester teaching loads and release time will become a thing of the past.

Darn faculty scholarship (presentation/publication) uses up instructional time without any financial benefit (heck you use up funds for travel in order to present). With the exception of high dollar, big time research - grants are only good for covering a portion of faculty salary and reducing instruction time in DOE often requires the hiring of at least adjunct types.

I am just saying the trend is toward universities making money from instruction and adjuncts are a lot cheaper than tenure track. Like KCTC, we can expect tenure to die out soon and instructors just become private contractors for whom the university does not have to ensure ongoing employment or big benefit packages. In the future neither most students or school administrators care if you wrote an article or presented at a conference, much less served the community or profession in the future. What counts is if you know your content and can attract students to your courses in numbers big enough to keep yourself being hired from semester to semester.

Don't bank on these accreditation organizations to ensure operational/cultural value status quo. Accreditation boards are in the business of sustaining their income through annual fees and establishing standard hoops for us to jump through which are attainable. Eventually the standards will either change to fit the pending conditions or groups of universities will divest themselves of the accreditation yoke if it becomes to burdesome in order to be marketable and establish their own criteria to tout to students.

Barometer - see what happens over the next few years with NCAA and sports in terms of university membership as that group increasing is determined to be inconsistent, incapable of enforcement and inhibiting to schools' marketability and operations. THeir existance is outdated and other than organizing a few tournaments, they cant' consistently enforce the rules they have created without tripping over their own feet. Eventually their reliability and effectiveness will be called into question (especially when it conflicts with financial opportunities of the schools) in relationship to any perceived benefit they claim to offer. When if falls to collective university disapproval, accreditations won't be too far behind.

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to see how much of these increasing tuitions are going to directly to full time faculty. We have allowed university competition and leadership's aspirations to outpace practical use of funds.

Like the last contributor, I am wondering why we are building satelite campus during this era of online instruction. I have heard enrollment is dropping as tuition increases and EKU can't compete financially with KCTC (I thought that was their role to begin with) or the small liberal arts colleges who are under cutting them with online courses. We haven't been strategic in our planning is what it sounds like to me.