With Energy Prices Down, Western States See Recession-Like Cuts

"Nationwide, things are looking up — or at least stable — for institutions dependent on state funding, which is up for the fourth year in a row. But at some universities, morale is looking more like it did in the midst of recession-era spending cuts," the Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

"Thanks to a boom in energy production several years ago, states such as Alaska, North Dakota, and Wyoming were among the leaders in post-recession higher-education spending, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Now, with energy prices down, looking at the mood on some of those campuses is like looking into a time machine for the rest of the nation, where many states have turned the money faucet back on for higher education.

'This is worse than anything I’ve seen. Bar none,' said Frank Jeffries, a longtime professor at the University of Alaska at Anchorage.

Mr. Jeffries is on the Faculty Senate at the flagship campus, which recently voted no confidence in the system president. Mr. Jeffries has been teaching business at the Anchorage campus since 1994 and saw what some refer to as 'the dark days of the 90s.'

More than 900 jobs have been eliminated from the University of Alaska system in two years, according to state figures. At the University of Wyoming, where Professor Scott R. Shaw said it’s "the darkest mood in years and perhaps since the Great Depression," the number of job cuts exceeded 300 and could surpass 400. And in North Dakota, where the development of the Bakken Shale helped establish the state as one of the most financially stable in the nation, 500 jobs were eliminated along with 6.5 percent of state support in the last budget.

But as those states scramble to balance budgets, many university leaders are pushing programs they believe could help lift their states out of the boom-and-bust cycles synonymous with energy economies. In some cases, states are holding onto nine-figure campus projects despite hemorrhaging money, programs, and positions.

So how do universities decide what stays and what goes?"

NASFAA's "Headlines" section highlights media coverage of financial aid to help members stay up to date with the latest news. Inclusion in Today's News does not imply endorsement of the material or guarantee the accuracy of information presented.


Publication Date: 3/3/2017

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