A new dynamic is emerging in many statehouses, where policy makers are debating not only how much money to appropriate for higher education but also what colleges should do to get that money.
That discussion may be a welcome change for public colleges, after the deep cuts of the recent economic downturn. With most legislatures having finished their 2014 sessions, next year’s state budgets are expected to increase, over all, for a fifth consecutive year, according to a report from the National Association of State Budget Officers. The predicted increase, less than 3 percent over all, is below historical standards for state spending, the association said in its annual survey of state-budget conditions.
While final numbers have not been tallied, proposed cuts to higher education were confined to just a handful of states, including Illinois, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Washington, and West Virginia, according to the association. Enacted budgets, it said, were likely to largely follow the early recommendations.
Policy makers have largely embraced the idea that an increase in college graduates will fuel a better economy for their states. But any increases in state appropriations to colleges are likely to come with lots of strings attached, including the expectation that higher education will somehow buffer the state from the next recession. <Read more.>