Public Funding (sic) of Higher Ed

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for us here in New Jersey: flooding, government shutdown, and now the inevitable budget cuts to higher education. The Rutgers librarians I’ve seen recently look like they’ve been head-butted in the sternum, and the other state colleges and universities didn’t fare too well either. I had lunch with some (really tough) commmunity college librarians yesterday and when I asked them about the budget cuts they said, “budget cuts? yeah we’re used to it.”

And that’s the problem. States all over the country have been underfunding public higher education for the past 20 years, continuing to move in the direction of a privatized model by raising tuition. It’s said that higher education is no longer considered a public good. More and more college presidents are calling for a national debate on the subject. F. King Alexander wrote recently in the Chronicle$ about how the current system actually contains disincentives for the states to fund higher ed:

States, of course, vary in their ability to maximize federal revenues through grant, loan, and tuition-tax-credit programs. However, those states that have, in fact, shifted the burden of financing higher education to students by substantially increasing tuition and fees in lieu of tax support — like Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Vermont — are able to draw relatively greater direct student-aid subsidies from the federal government. In contrast, states that have struggled to keep tuition low through higher taxes and greater public support — like California, Kentucky, New Mexico, and North Carolina — find themselves disproportionately disadvantaged in receipt of federal dollars for student-aid grants and subsidized loans.

In 2002, higher education funding was on an ACRL list of top issues facing academic libraries. Looks like we may have to make a permanent slot for that one.

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