The State Budget for Higher Education
By TRCF intern Natalia Mitsui
After years of being told that education is vital for success later in life, students may now be faced with the prospect of not going to college. The recent proposal by Republican Governor Tom Corbett to cut $650 million in funding for higher education in Pennsylvania was met with backlash from the community.
Despite the recession being technically over and the economy gradually improving, budget cuts are still prevalent across the board. Being as the economy is not yet in the clear, the allotment of state funds is coming up short, especially with the stimulus money running out in June of this year.
States cannot borrow money, unlike the federal government, to balance budgets. In turn states are left with the option of operating more efficiently, raising taxes, or cutting spending to bridge the budget gap.
With Corbett’s name attached to the announcement, it is easy to make him the scapegoat; however, sometimes the tough unpopular decision needs to be made. The proposal called for a 30 percent cutback on state allocated funds for the University of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania State University, 50 percent for Temple University and Lincoln University, and 20 percent for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.
With budgets slashed for states, the cuts are creeping into most if not all state programs. Aside from higher education, K-12 education is taking a hit of nearly $550 million and a one-year salary freeze for all public school employees. State jobs are being eliminated at the tune of 1,500 positions, the majority of which are in the Department of Public Welfare. The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development is getting their budget cut down by 32 percent ($114 million). Also, despite the Environmental Protection Agency’s call for stricter controls on the commonwealth’s natural gas drilling, the funding for environmental protection is proposed to be reduced by $140 million.
More and more students are going to college to weather the storm of the sluggish economy. Job prospects are universally bleak and students are graduating with soaring levels of debt. Now that a bachelor’s degree replaces what a high school degree stood for decades ago, students are finding it imperative to seek out higher education.
College attendance is growing, but so is the price of tuition. According the Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics college tuition, room and board rates have increased dramatically (refer to graph).
In response, there is a movement brewing for student loan forgiveness –which seems like a recipe for disaster. Although it is unfortunate that some people may never get the chance to go to college because of the overwhelming cost of tuition and the impending debt that goes along with it, loan forgiveness is not a viable option. A large part of the housing crisis was a result of home owners, financial institutions, and investment firms not internalizing the risk. It was an excessive game of pass the buck that toppled in on itself and served as a catalyst for the current bleak economy.
If student loan forgiveness were to be implemented, students would not internalize the risk of taking these loans out. Meaning that students would have nothing to lose if they walked away from the loan without completing their degree or not pursuing a job on par with their education –similar to how homeowners were able to walk away from their houses because they barely put any money down upfront.
The reality of the situation is that education is expensive and budget cuts for higher education is not helping the matter. Nevertheless, the cuts are inevitable in the harsh environment of the current economy and everyone is feeling the tightening of the proverbial belt.
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