Higher Education Funding on the Rise in Some States

After being mired for years in deep and harsh budget cuts, public colleges and universities in some states could be about to see daylight. Stateline reports several governors are calling for sizeable increases in postsecondary spending as their state budget woes begin to ease.

Iowa’s Governor, Terry Branstad, a Republican, could be on a collision course, however, with the Republican-controlled House, where leaders are calling for further cuts in higher education. Branstad has proposed a $23-million increase for the state’s three public universities, while House Republicans want to cut funding by $31-million from last year’s budget.

“We still have a tight budget,” Branstad was quoted in Stateline. “But we’re in a better position. It’s not like we’re short revenue.”

Iowa's Senate, where Democrats are in the majority, reportedly wants even more funding for the state's universities than Branstad is proposing. However, Sen. Bob Dvorsky, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee told Stateline it's probably unrealistic to expect more higher education funding than the governor has called for.

Other governors are also calling for more money for postsecondary education. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie reportedly wants to increase higher education funding by 6 percent. Idaho Gov. Butch Otter is calling for an 8 percent increase for public universities and a 20 percent increase for community colleges. In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam is proposing an increase of $35 million in postsecondary spending next year – a 3 percent increase. And Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder indicates he wants a 3 percent increase in higher education spending, using the additional money to reward colleges based on four performance criteria, including degree completion and affordability.

A report issued by the State Higher Education Executive Officers concludes per-pupil funding from states to public colleges and universities was $6,290 in FY2011. That was the lowest level in more than 25 years when adjusted for inflation.