Governors Talk Higher Education Funding in State of the State Addresses

By Erin Timmons, Communications Staff 

Even in the face of ever increasing college costs, governors in five states are proposing to reduce spending for higher education in the next fiscal year – in a couple of states by as much as $300 million.

In Arizona, Republican Governor Doug Ducey originally proposed a reduction of $75 million in higher education funding. Though the cuts were met with strong objections from schools and higher education advocates alike, Republican legislators in the state stood their ground and upped the cuts by another $24 million for a total reduction of $99 million.

In Kansas, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback aims to make up the state's $344 million projected deficit by cutting a combined $45 million in funding from K-12 public schools and colleges, according to the Associated Press.

Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R-LA) State of the State Address is scheduled for April 13, but both he and Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) are reportedly planning to cut a whopping $300 million in higher education funds in their respective states, MSNBC reports.

And in Connecticut, Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, has "proposed cutting $10.6 million from the University of Connecticut system and an additional $20.6 million from the state’s regional universities," Stateline reports.

These cuts are just the latest in a long series of states’ divestment in colleges and universities since the economic downturn. A study conducted and released in December by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) – at the behest of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions – found a 12 percent decline in state funding for public institutions from 2003 to 2012. Over that same period, tuition costs increased, making paying for college a challenge for students and their families. 

There are some states, however, striving to ease the dire funding situations at their state colleges and universities. Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA), for instance, stressed in his January 5 Inaugural Address the importance of college affordability and timely completion. Thanks to the economic recovery, he said, the state can now "repay a billion dollars borrowed from schools and community colleges."

Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO), has proposed increasing Colorado’s higher education budget by $107 million in the coming fiscal year, however in his January 15 State of the State Address he acknowledged that the state’s “ability to continue funding higher ed at this level may not last much longer.”

According to an American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) round-up of 2015 Gubernatorial State of the State Addresses, a number of other states intend to increase higher education funding over the next fiscal year as well, including Alabama, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia.

While many states did not address the state of funding for higher education in their State of the State addresses, some did say they will take steps to aid in completion through various state scholarship plans and state-focused student debt relief programs and initiatives.


Publication Date: 3/31/2015

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