College Education Is Expected to Remain a High Priority for States

A slow-growing economy, political polarization, and the drive to significantly increase the number of college graduates are the factors that will keep higher education in the forefront of this year’s state legislative sessions.

While state tax coffers are projected to be in the black in most states, public colleges shouldn’t expect that appropriations will be on the rise anytime soon. Even in places where fiscal conditions are improving most quickly, legislators are looking for ways to squeeze the most efficiency out of the tax dollars they appropriate to higher education and, at the same time, keep college affordable.

That could lead to more lower-cost degrees delivered by public colleges online or efforts to link tuition rates to programs that are thought to be economically important to the state.

Lawmakers in many places are considering plans to reward institutions for the number of students that complete credits and finish their degrees instead of the number of students they enroll.

Those policies have the possibility to redefine the relationship between states and public colleges, said Daniel J. Hurley, director of state relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

The new approaches may also put public colleges in a no-win situation: forced to improve their performance with little or no hope of actually receiving more money. In Georgia, for example, a proposal to reward colleges for increased completions would apply only to any increase in state appropriations.

“That’s a big assumption because there’s been no growth in five years,” said Carolyn J. Bourdeaux, an associate professor of public management and policy at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University. <Read more. May require paid subscription.>

Via Eric Kelderman, The Chronicle of Higher Ed.