Imagine yourself a college freshman, who starts his first academic year at, let’s say. the Public East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania. If you entered the university in 2012, you definitely faced all consequences of the budget cutting period. That was the time, when Pennsylvania was in the middle of 7 years of budget cutting for the higher education budget segment.
So, between the time you applied and the moment you enrolled, the tuition in the state went up to 7,5%, while the prices were getting higher and higher. You were the first in your family to enter the college, which is why you kept working part time and also commuting directly from home since it wasn’t that expensive. Your parents were helping you saving some funds from their salaries. Your parents say that was worth it – for their child to become the student government vice president, the editor of the college newspaper and tell a brilliant speech in May. However, before you did that, you were definitely among the students begging for the cuts to stop in the capital. By 2015, the state had cut public universities funding by $3,76 per full-time student, providing its students with only 2/3 of the national average of what the United States contribute to the sector of higher education. From the beginning of the recession, the public universities tuition has reached almost $2000.
Whether the arguments were heard or not, Pennsylvania authorities really raised the higher education budget by 2,5%, for the period from 2016-2017. However, that’s not enough to reach the 33% the state has cut since 2008.
Funds Deficit & the Balanced Budget Threatening the Higher Ed
Unfortunately, this state is not the only one, where the area of higher education is still extremely down since recession start. As the economy rebounds, Pennsylvania’s spending on higher education does not seem to bounce back. Moreover, in some parts of the US more and more funds provided for the public colleges and universities are actually going to the areas such as employee pensions. Historically, higher education has been the area with the balancing budgets. That’s because this segment has the other source of revenue called tuition. It is the only budget area, where costs can be easily pushed on directly to the end user. And exactly that is what a lot of American states are still doing. The amount college and universities students have been asked to contribute to the universities and colleges running cost more than doubled – up to 47%, during the period from 1987 to 2012. Nonetheless, it hasn’t stopped educational establishments from trimming what college and university students receive for their money.
A Sign of Hope in Hard Economic Times?
In Pennsylvania, 70% of college and university students now leave their alma mater with the average debt of $33 264, which is higher than the national average at the level of $29 000.
Still, some students see the signs of hope. For instance, state investments in public colleges and universities have at least beaten the level that was at the lowest point in 2012. However, given “the sufficient disinvestment” during the period from 2008 to 2014, it’s impossible to say what they will do when the next recession occurs.