Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Yesterday's Los Angles Times offered a pretty bleak picture of the state of public higher education. The overall trend is a sharp increase in tuition since 2008 and a decrease in public funding for universities. In nine states, tuition has increased by more than 50%. The increase in Arizona is a whopping 83.6%. Only ten states managed to keep tuition growth below 15%, which would have amounted to an arguably reasonable set of annual increases (just over 2% a year during a time of non-existent inflation). The California Budget Project goes back further in time a traces the spending on prisons versus universities, finding that in 1980-81 California corrections accounted for 2.9% of the state budget and the state's university systems 9.6%. By 2014-2015, the proportions were reversed -- corrections were 9% of the state budget and the universities down to 5.1%.
The LA Times article does a good job of explaining the politics that is producing this result. But regardless of why it is happening, this declining state support and sharp increase in the cost of attendance also begs the question of how many of our state universities can be fairly characterized as "public" and how long they will continue to be?