Resetting the relationship between states and public higher education

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Many factors drive states' economies and are vital to ensuring future prosperity. No asset, however, is more powerful than that of a well-educated and highly-skilled workforce. Human talent trumps everything else: climate, culture, and yes, tax rates.

Public two- and four-year universities are the dominant engines that power the American workforce. These institutions are the gateways through which pass our next generation of workers, our future middle class, and active participants in a vibrant democracy. Yet we are all too familiar with much of the narrative in higher education as of late: increasing tuition prices driven by decreasing state investment in public higher education, and with it, spiraling student debt.

Despite the link between workforce talent and state economic capacity-building, public higher education has been deprioritized as a state investment priority. In the past quarter century, state higher education funding per full-time equivalent student has declined 35 percent; as a share of states' general fund budgets by 16 percent; and per $1,000 of personal income by 37 percent, while full-time student enrollment has grown by 62 percent.

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