As lawmakers try to balance a $5 billion deficit, higher education will take a major hit, leading to tuition increases, larger classes, staff layoffs, and a reduction in scholarships for low-income students. In this episode of "Connects," we talk with students, alumni, and school presidents to better understand the real impacts of these budget cuts and what they may mean for the future of higher education.
New Lows for Higher Ed
Here’s a simple question for you. Do you want your kids to succeed and have a good paying job when they grow up? If your answer is yes, then I have one piece of advice: Make sure they go to college.
I suck at math, but the numbers on this are pretty stark and simple. The average salary of a person with just a high school diploma is about $32,000 a year. Get a bachelor’s degree, and it jumps to $52,000. The unemployment rate right now for someone with just a high school diploma is 9.5%. For someone with a bachelor’s degree or higher, it’s only 4.4%.
Bottom line: Get a college degree and you’ll make more money and face a much smaller chance of being unemployed.
Unfortunately, getting that degree is about to get tougher for a lot of people in our state because of proposed budget cuts to higher education. Nothing’s final yet, but House Democrats this week proposed a budget that would cut $482 million to higher education institutions. Those cuts include suspending or in some cases eliminating scholarships, grants and work-study programs for low-income students, while state schools would be allowed to increase tuition to offset the cuts.
Bottom line: there will be less financial help for struggling students while the cost of going to college will go up.
Unfortunately, the state is facing a $5 billion dollar budget deficit, and the money has to come from somewhere. Higher education isn’t being unfairly targeted. It’s just one of the many victims. The House budget proposal calls for cuts to Basic Health, Disability Lifeline, and other social programs as well.
But cutting funding to higher education is a bitter pill to swallow, because higher ed is such a profound investment in the future. It’s a little like raiding your retirement account to pay your credit card balance. You solve one problem now, but won’t realize the trade-off until later.
So in this episode of “Connects,” we’re looking at the harsh reality that our state’s colleges and universities face. We’ll be talking with students, alumni and most of the school presidents – to see how schools are going to deal with the budget cuts now, and explore the future of higher education in the “new normal” of tough financial times.
Ethan Morris, Senior Producer