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The States’ Failure to Support Higher Education

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The States’ Failure to Support Higher Education

Universally accessible and affordable public higher-education systems have become an economic and social necessity for all advancing nations. Unfortunately, however, on the whole, many policy makers in this country have not demonstrated much interest in providing the requisite financial support for public colleges and universities. Many state institutions are coping with rapidly growing numbers of applicants, as well as increasing legislative demands for greater performance and productivity. Yet the gap between such expectations and the resources to meet them is creating a looming crisis.

Cutbacks and minimal increases in state appropriations to public universities have led to a draconian cycle whereby institutions have increasingly raised their tuitions to make up for the lost revenues, which, in turn, has spurred state governments to further reduce their commitment and support. An unfortunate result is that public universities are increasingly becoming less accessible to students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. The problem is widespread and will continue unless we embark on a new national debate on the future of public higher education.

Unfortunately, our nation has not engaged in such a substantive debate for nearly four decades. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the discussion arose from concerns about how to share the burden of providing resources for higher education and how to increase accessibility to postsecondary education for students. Out of that debate came federal policies that were

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