The Attack on American Education

Meanwhile, at least 43 states have implemented cuts to public colleges and universities and/or made large increases in college tuition to make up for insufficient state funding.

  • Alabama’s fiscal year 2011 cuts to higher education have led to 2010-11 tuition hikes that range from 8 percent to 23 percent, depending on the institution.
  • Arizona’s Board of Regents approved in-state undergraduate tuition increases of between 9 and 20 percent as well as fee increases at the state’s three public universities. Additionally, the three state universities must implement a 2.75 percent reduction in state-funded salary spending and plan to do so through a variety of actions, such as academic reorganization, layoffs, furloughs, position eliminations, hiring fewer tenure-eligible faculty, and higher teaching workloads.
  • The University of California has increased tuition by 32 percent and reduced freshman enrollment by 2,300 students; the California State University system cut enrollment by 40,000 students.
  • Colorado funding for higher education was reduced by $62 million from FY 2010 and this has led to cutbacks at the state’s institutions. The University of Colorado system will lay off 79 employees in FY 2011 and has increased employee workloads and required higher employee contributions to health and retirement benefits.
  • Florida’s 11 public universities will raise tuition by 15 percent for the 2010-11 academic year. This tuition hike, combined with a similar increase in 2009-10, results in a total two-year increase of 32 percent.
  • Georgia has cut state funding for public higher education for FY2011 by $151 million, or 7 percent. As a result, undergraduate tuition for the fall 2010 semester at Georgia’s four public research universities (Georgia State, Georgia Tech, the Medical College of Georgia, and the University of Georgia) will increase by $500 per semester, or 16 percent. Community college tuition will increase by $50 per semester.
  • The University of Idaho has responded to budget cuts by imposing furlough days on 2,600 of its employees statewide. Furloughs will range from 4 hours to 40 hours depending on pay level.
  • Indiana’s cuts to higher education have caused Indiana State University to plan to lay off 89 staff.
  • Michigan has reduced student financial aid by $135 million (over 61 percent), including decreases of 50 percent in competitive scholarships and 44 percent in tuition grants, as well as elimination of nursing scholarships, work-study, the Part-Time Independent Student Program, Michigan Education Opportunity Grants, and the Michigan Promise Scholarships.
  • In Minnesota, as a result of higher education funding cuts, approximately 9,400 students will lose their state financial aid grants entirely, and the remaining state financial aid recipients will see their grants cut by 19 percent.
  • Missouri’s fiscal year 2011 budget reduces by 60 percent funding for the state’s only need-based financial aid program, which helps 42,000 students access higher education. This cut was partially restored with other scholarship money, but will still result in a cut of at least 24 percent to need-based aid.
  • New Mexico has eliminated over 80 percent of support to the College Affordability Endowment Fund, which provides need-based scholarships to 2,366 students who do not qualify for other state grants or scholarships.
  • New York’s state university system has increased resident undergraduate tuition by 14 percent beginning with the spring 2009 semester.
  • In North Carolina, University of North Carolina students will see their tuition rise by $750 in the 2010-2011 school year and community college students will see their tuition increase by $200 due to fiscal year 2011 reductions in state higher education spending.
  • South Dakota’s fiscal year 2011 budget cuts state support for public universities by $6.5 million and as a result the Board of Regents has increased university tuition by 4.6 percent and cut university programs by $4.4 million.
  • Texas has instituted a 5 percent across-the-board budget cut that reduced higher education funding by $73 million.
  • Virginia’s community colleges implemented a tuition increase during the spring 2010 semester.
  • Washington has reduced state funding for the University of Washington by 26 percent for the current biennium. Washington State University is increasing tuition by almost 30 percent over two years. In its supplemental budget, the state cut 6 percent more from direct aid to the state’s six public universities and 34 community colleges, which will lead to further tuition increases, administrative cuts, furloughs, layoffs, and other cuts. The state also cut support for college work-study by nearly one-third and suspended funding for a number of its financial aid programs.
  • Other states that are cutting higher education operating funding and financial aid include Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

Robert ReichHave we gone collectively out of our minds? Our young people — their capacities to think, understand, investigate, and innovate — are America’s future. In the name of fiscal prudence we’re endangering that future.

In January, Republicans take over the House and its appropriations committees. What would it take for them to reinstitute counter-cyclical revenue sharing that would help the states restore some or all funding for education? Can you imagine the White House and Senate Dems putting this at the top of their 2011 agenda? Is it possible this could be a bi-partisan effort?

Robert Reich

Robert Reich’s Blog


  1. Linda Doran says

    Two comments: While I agree with the first writer that reducing the size of any bureaucracy is generally a good idea, given the history of this country, especially its history of discriminating against people of color and putting religious ideals such as evolution ahead of critical thinking, placing education under the control of individual states is a truly bad idea. I have similar socioeconomic concerns about the family-focused approach of the second writer. Parental involvement usually is a good thing, but it tends to work best for families that can afford to make one parent available. In the case of low-income families and single-parent families, the parents spend most of their time working. Our education system needs to be able to help kids whose parents just aren’t available — otherwise, we end up with more kids in gangs, on drugs, and on the streets. Throwing law enforcement at the problem doesn’t solve it. As much as we talk about needing to win the hearts and minds of people in countries like Afghanistan, we also need to win the hearts and minds of our own disadvantaged youth.

  2. Joe Weinstein says

    Talk about missing forests for trees! That happens all the time in talk which is determined to be right-wing-politically-correct.

    Commenter George A. has a point when it comes to K-12 public schools, but how would – and why should – his nostrums make any difference for our universities?? Indeed, why should we want to run research and higher education as in-loco-parentis institutions, based on presumptions of student non-maturity and non-responsibility?

    Meanwhile, for children and youth of ages corresponding to conventional K-12 schools, the real need is to encourage parents to be responsible for and involved in and taking some charge of their own kids development and education.

    Meeting this need will indeed drastically improve control of school costs; but it will do far more than that: it will improve what counts: the quality of education and development of our young people.

    Parents’ responsibility for and involvement with their own kids does not equate to and should not be seen as equating to taking charge of big institutions. That latter task might benefit, but only marginally, from ‘local control’ of public schools. In practice ‘local’ control typically is pro-forma: it means simply dictation by local or metropolitan, rather than statewide, versions of the same old power elite – which consists largely of folks who are either not parents at all or are parents only by coincidence, not focus. As George A. admits, focus on such local control of schools will at best achieve a ‘fighting chance’ for parents (or anyone else) to insist on wise school expenditures.

    In my personal experience, most parents aren’t interested – and shouldn’t have to be interested – in fighting chances to help administer school districts and big-time budgets. Parents don’t have time for this. The most we can hope (and should have to hope) is that parents have time to spend directly with and for their own kids and their kids’ immediate friends.

    The better approach – for cost-cutting as well as for more profound reasons of better development and education – is to encourage more home-‘schooling’ – of both single-family and multi-family-cooperative varieties – and to recognize that kids’ full development, especially in a society that likes to pride itself on promoting freedom and individual explorations and initiative, does not equate to enforced all-day mass incarceration.

    For all this, teacher unions can help, not hinder, if the ‘professionalism’ they choose to defend and promote is one where parents are welcomed as collaborators in school rooms and even more welcomed as partners at home.

    Even standardized tests can help, if they are used and developed primarily not for bureaucratic judgments of average performance of masses of kids, school by school, but on the individual level as aids to parents who seek to ensure adequate education and progress of their own kids.

  3. George A. Crackuh says

    It’s amazing how consistently Mr. Reich manages to miss the forest for the trees.

    The context for these minimal balancing efforts is this: We are now spending about Ten Thousand Dollars Per Year on each child in public school.

    $10,000 – per child – per year. Outrageous! And for what? A truly lousy product.

    In any sane setup expenses would carefully controlled. You know, like concerned individuals who responsibly watch their own personal budgets. But who cares about costs or results, as long as the distant taxpayer is footing the bill.

    Worldwide, only Switzerland spends more. But for their money, the Swiss buy excellent educations for all their kids, and it is all under canton-level, not confederation, control. We, on the other hand, have a vast federal Rube Goldberg apparatus corrupting the states and supplying a pernicious glut of mediocrity for our kids. Smaaaart – NO.

    Public, private, or charter, each local community should be funding and controlling their own schools. That way, the parents will watch how their own precious money is spent, and they will have a fighting chance to insist it be spent wisely.

    The federal government needs to get completely out of the school-ruling and the school-funding business and leave it all to the states, through their communities alone, to decide how best to educate their children.

    We should indeed attack the problems of our educational system. And freeing our children from the oppressive weight of the teacher’s unions is the very first problem we should attack.

    So, let me suggest a great first cost-cutting and freedom-enhancing step Congress can take: simply outlaw all public-employee unions. After all, it should be obvious by now that the NEA does *not* have the best interests of our children anywhere near the top of their priority list. Right after that, we can close down the massively expensive and completely unnecessary US Department of Education.

    Those two steps alone would probably lift the IQ’s of our kiddies by 10 points apiece.

    May the local experimentation (AND the budget-slashing) run free!

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