When F. King Alexander became president of the LSU system not long ago, he assumed leadership of an institution that’s faced sharp declines in state support during the past few years. But Alexander, whose previous job was leading California State University Long Beach, is no stranger to budget challenges. In California, as in many other states across America, state funding for higher education has also dropped markedly.
“The nation is in the process of backing out of support of higher education,” Alexander told a recent meeting of Advocate reporters and editors. “This is an issue of national significance.”
State funding for higher education has dropped from 14 percent of most state budgets to about 8 percent, Alexander said. A report released last spring by the national Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted steep declines in state support for higher education across the country since the economic downturn that began in 2007. The report concluded that on average, states spent 28 percent less per student in the 2013 fiscal year than they did in 2008.
“Higher education is the only thing out there without protection,” Alexander said. As state officials are forced to find matching dollars for Medicaid and answer other mandates, higher education becomes especially vulnerable, he added.