I know that spring is finally upon us because my wife has started organizing her vegetable garden. The garden, like the start of baseball season and the sound of lawn mowers instead of snow blowers, is a sure sign of longer days and warmer evenings.
The other sure sign, unfortunately, is the seemingly endless news reports of higher ed budget cuts, coupled with tuition hikes at both public and private institutions across the country. In all, 43 states have made significant cuts to their higher education budgets, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (www.cbpp.org).
Colleges and universities--and students--are paying the price, and there doesn't seem to be a way out.
The University of Arizona, for example, wants to counteract state funding cuts by raising tuition and fees by $1,790 next year, a 22 percent hike. The budget proposed by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer would also cut the state's funding to Maricopa County community colleges by $38.4 million, or 85 percent.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has proposed dramatic cuts to education, including cutting $625 million, or about 50 percent, of funding meant for 14 state-owned universities, as well as Temple University, Penn State, Lincoln University, and the University of Pittsburgh.
In Washington State, college and university leaders were told they would face $600 million in cuts in the next two years--about half their previous funding--and that they should prepare for an additional $180 million in cuts if tax revenue doesn't improve. Either way, officials at the University of Washington predict tuition will have to increase more than the 11 percent currently proposed.
Florida students must wonder where the state's priorities lie when they read that Governor Rick Scott's proposed budget cuts $3.3 billion from overall education funding. Meanwhile, lawmakers want state funds to build golf courses and hotels in each of the five state parks. This is in a state that already has more golf courses--over 1,000--than any other state.
Still, there are some hopefuls signs.
Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee has proposed a budget that actually increases higher education funding by $10 million. It won't close the funding gap, but it will help hold back tuition increases.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says he will reject tuition increases in the state's schools. Good news for families perhaps, but the schools are working through a 30 percent funding reduction from the last three years.
And in Tennessee, officals at The University of the South, said they would cut its $46,000 sticker price by 10 percent next year, to end what it called the "tuition game."
True, these are Band-Aids on gaping wounds. But until the economy improves, these measures and others like them may be the best we can expect.
Write to Tim Goral at firstname.lastname@example.org.