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States consider higher-ed funding increases

Published: Monday, April 29 2013 3:00 p.m. MDT

Dwindling support from state legislatures over the past two decades pushed more and more college costs onto students and families. In some states, funding increases for higher education might be coming.

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Higher education budgets have been stretched to the breaking point in recent years, and some states are beginning to address the problem with funding increases.

Minnesota’s House of Representatives approved a 150 million increase in spending on state colleges and universities on April 25, after legislators said that higher education had been too long neglected in the state’s budgets, the Republican-Eagle reports. If the law passes, much of the money will be directed toward making college more affordable through tuition freezes, debt relief and state grants. The bill also calls for public colleges and universities to report more information to the state, heightening accountability for the new funds they would receive.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said on April 26 that legislators should protect funding for Kansas' public colleges and universities because his administration has required the state’s higher education system to take on extra work, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.

However, as the governor touted his budget proposals, he touted a legislative study of university operations to examine House Republican leaders’ questions about whether the campuses have stockpiled funds, the story said.

In Oregon, hundreds of students marched to the state Capitol on April 25 to advocate for more funding for higher education, the Statesman Journal reported.

The Oregon Students Association is asking lawmakers for $510 million in community college funding and $850 million for universities. The group also wants an extra $15 million for the Oregon Opportunity Grant, a need-based program for college students, the story said.

Oregon House Republicans blocked a Democratic plan to raise $275 million in taxes, a setback for the students’ initiatives.

The efforts to increase higher education funding follow years of ballooning enrollments at colleges and universities coupled with declining revenues, according to the 2012 report on state higher education finances by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.

Adjusted for inflation, total educational revenue per student dropped by 8 percent between 2008 and 2012, the report said. A long decline in state funding has left students and families paying an ever-greater proportion of higher education costs, it continued. Over the past 25 years, the percentage of educational revenue supported by tuition has more than doubled, climbing steadily from 23 percent in 1987 to 47 percent in 2012.

EMAIL: cbaker@deseretnews.com

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