Governors talk funding, but colleges less certain of state support
- U.S. governors have addressed issues related to workforce development and college affordability in their annual state-of-the-state addresses, according to a report from the Education Commission of the States.
- A review of 48 such speeches showed 35 governors discussed workforce development and retention initiatives such as adding funding for training programs in the skilled trades and other high-demand industries.
- The 19 governors who addressed financial aid offered proposals that included targeted aid, partnering with university foundations and making more programs aid-eligible.
Workforce development proposals included several that intend to strengthen ties between academia and the private sector. In Maine, that includes more funding for career and technical schools, while Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey suggested expanding education in the skilled trades. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson asked for funding for programs to help workers reskill in high-demand fields such as education, health care and manufacturing, according to KFVS.
Seventeen governors mentioned the rising cost of higher education, with more funding for scholarships and broader eligibility for existing financial aid programs among their proposed solutions.
However, discussion of increasing state dollars to public colleges was a lower priority for governors, who focused most of the education funding discussion on K-12 schools.
State dollars to higher ed increased slightly between the 2017-18 and 2018-19 fiscal years, though how much state systems rely on it varies widely. Still, a Moody's report in February suggested concerns over a decade-long drop-off in state support for higher ed will continue to be a "high-profile policy issue," particularly in light of a projected economic downturn in the coming years.
Many colleges are growing wary of continued tuition increases, and projections of a decline in college-age students has them looking to shore up their revenue streams. Fundraising will likely play a role, with both public and private institutions in recent months completing record-breaking capital campaigns. Resetting tuition and increasing grant aid is also a tactic more colleges are using to gain a competitive edge with students.
- Education Commission of the States Governors' Top Education Priorities in 2019 State of the State Addresses