For five years since the Great Recession, states have drastically cut funding for public universities, with long-lasting consequences for the U.S. economy. A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds that every state except North Dakota and Wyoming is spending less per student than before the recession. As a result, students are paying much higher tuition, while quality of education has suffered from faculty cuts, closed campuses, eliminated course offerings and shut down educational resources like libraries and computer labs.
Arizona has made the deepest cuts to higher education funding in the nation. Consequently, tuition has risen 78 percent since 2008, more than in any other state:
More than 75 percent of America’s undergraduate students attend public colleges and universities, which rely heavily on state funds. As tuition spikes, the student debt crisis has reached record highs, surpassing a total of $1 trillion in 2012. This debt has slowed the housing recovery and exacerbated the class divide between those who can afford to go to college and those who cannot.
Meanwhile, students have had to rely more on recently expanded federal funds for grant aid and higher education tax benefits. But even federal aid cannot offset the enormous cost burden states have shifted to students. Public colleges and universities that once received 3.3 times as much funding from state and local governments as they did from students now receive just 1.1 times as much as they do from students:
The CBPP report notes that much of the damage done to the higher education system could have been avoided if states had chosen to close their budget gaps with a more balanced mix of new revenue and spending cuts. But state governments seem unmoved by the burden they have placed on students; they will spend 10.8 percent less on higher education in 2013 than they did before the recession, according to one projection. Meanwhile, many of these states, including Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Indiana, and Ohio, are calling for new tax cuts for businesses and the wealthy.