Judged by the amount of funding higher education receives from states, the 2008 financial collapse is a long way from resolving itself. According to The New York Times, the total money allocated by the states towards their colleges and universities saw another decline of nearly 7% last year.
This is driving many schools to raise the tuition they charge students to make up for the state funding shortfall. According to Paul Lingenfelter – the head of State Higher education Executive Officers Association, which provided the numbers for the NYT – the hikes are still insufficient to make up for the losses.
This puts the students and schools themselves in a very tough financial position. Those who enroll are asked to pay more, stretching their own resources, while the schools are forced to do with less due to the fact that governments aren't supporting them to the degree that they used to.
Mr. Lingenfelter said he was particularly troubled by the long-term trend of shifting the cost of higher education from the public onto students and their families.
Over the last 25 years, the share of public university revenues coming from tuition and fees has climbed steadily to 47 percent past year, from 23 percent in 1987. And with ever-higher tuition, full-time college attendance is out of reach for an increasing number of students, which bodes ill for their chances of completing a degree.
Lingenfelter said that the tuition hikes are forcing more students to embrace part-time learning. However, this does come with a downside. Part-timers are much less likely to graduate with a degree at all, compared to their peers who enroll in class full time.
He added that to bring down the number of students who pile on the debt but don't end up with a diploma anyway the government needs to provide more funding to make sure that all who wish to can fully commit to their higher education, rather than balancing it with other responsibilities in order to make ends meet.
Although in some states like New Jersey, legislators are considering proposals that would raise the level of higher education funding, but these raises typically don't fully offset the cuts that have been made since 2008.
Meanwhile in Louisiana, higher education officials recently got their first look at the new budget proposal submitted by Governor Bobby Jindal, which not only completely overhauls how the universities will receive their money but also cuts about $200 million from the total over the previous year.