Overall state support for higher ed falls amid Illinois budget woes

Dive Brief:

  • Overall state support for public higher education institutions dipped last year by 1.8%, according to a new report from the State Higher Education Executive Officers association analyzed by Inside Higher Ed, which also found tuition revenue climbing to 47.8% of budgets for public colleges and universities last year, near the all-time high of 48% in 2013.
  • Illinois’ inability to reach a budget agreement was the main reason for the dip, as state support per student for public colleges rose by 3.2% excluding that state's performance — a number that would have marked the fourth straight year of rising per-student support from states.
  • States vary widely on support levels, however, with public higher education support falling in 17 states, while support rose in 33. Illinois had the largest decrease, while Oregon had the biggest increase at 14.6%.

Dive Insight:

As legislatures and executives respond to budget woes with threats of severe austerity, Illinois is a cautionary tale of the costs of inaction. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic legislators battled over cutting administrative costs and ensuring money for social services, and the eventual compromise included neither. The state cuts adversely affected students and teachers, with unpaid days off for professors and canceled classes at Northeastern Illinois University.

While state institutions have come to depend more on tuition revenue to offset budget cuts, using such revenue to cover increasing gaps could lead to tuition hikes. In-state students may blanch at the rising price tags, which would lead public universities to seek more international and out-of-state students to recoup costs with higher tuition rates. But as schools find it more difficult to attract international students and students increasingly question the value of a degree, states may reach a point where tuition revenue will not be able to sustain the drop in funding caused by austerity measures.

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Filed Under: Higher Ed Policy & Regulation