- Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia President Patrick Harker recently told students at Saint Joseph's University that decreased investment in higher education could create direct harm for low- and middle-income college students. Lower funding that leads to tuition hikes, the former University of Delaware president said, creates obstacles for students to enroll in college and to receive quality instruction if they are able to get in, according to MarketWatch.
- The budget challenges lead to programmatic cuts, and lost mentoring and advising services that help to build persistence among vulnerable students, Harker said.
- “We’re talking about our future workforce, and to misallocate those resources, or funnel exceptional minds away from areas where they could have the most impact, is shooting ourselves in the foot,” Harker said.
The key to understanding the full impact of budget cuts on higher education is not to look at what is taken away from the educational process, but the strain that is added to university operations and culture as a result of fewer resources. Class sizes increase, technological upgrades are slower in implementing, and student services are provided at a premium. This is a particular challenge for first-year students and those who are from low-income households, who are generally unfamiliar with campus processes lost to navigate financial and academic office culture without proper guidance.
These realities have been the hallmark of the stereotypes that surround historically black colleges and universities, which for years have suffered from stigmas caused by resource deficits both at the institutions and in the lives of the students who generally attend them. This struggle has expanded to larger institutions that now realize the necessity and value of recruiting low-income students, but which also recognize the amount of support they need in faculty assistance, process management, and intrusive academic oversight.
Congress recently made moderate increases in the funding lines that support the functions that support student retention and persistence on campus, but it is up to institutions to match available resources with wise recruiting strategies and university culture to ensure that vulnerable students are given the effective tools to succeed in complex learning environments.