State funding for higher education is on the rise after years of free fall, much to the delight of public schools everywhere. According to a study by researchers at Illinois State University, college spending by legislatures rose almost 6 percent this fiscal year, with 40 states seeing upticks and only 10 states seeing drops. Many professors and administrators are breathing a sigh of relief, anticipating that things will soon be back to normal.Read beyond the headlines, though, and there’s good reason they shouldn’t relax just yet. Support for higher education may be on the rise, but, as the WSJ notes, state spending on higher education is still 11 percent lower than it was before the recession. California, Florida and Illinois account for more than half of the total increases in funding this fiscal year; remove these three states and the gains are considerably more modest. What’s more, two of them have serious money problems. Illinois’ finances are among the worst in the country, and while California has fared better as of late, the state’s budget surplus is shaky and the its credit rating is the second-lowest in the country. Neither state seems poised to keep increasing higher ed funding.
Winter for Higher-EdState College Funding Makes a Comeback, But is it Too Little, Too Late?
But no amount of state spending can reverse the big changes coming to higher ed. Enrollment and tuition revenue are down, and tuition hikes would risk scaring off increasingly price-conscious students. As a result, many private schools are already searching for ways to cut their costs and make do with less money. As public schools are forced to compete with sleeker counterparts in the private sector, they will have to embrace change as well, with or without some extra funding from state governments.