Earlier this month, Republican Govs. Bruce Rauner (IL) and Scott Walker (WI) released their proposed budgets. Both plans included deep cuts – including mass layoffs, elimination of programs, and possible closures of campuses – for public universities in their states, the Huffington Post reported.
According to HuffPo:
Rauner’s proposed 2016 budget contains a 31.5 percent, or $387 million, reduction in funding for public universities. Wisconsin’s 2015-2017 budget would shrink state funding by 13 percent, or $300 million over two years, the largest reduction in the state’s history.
Most states are finally starting to recover from the recession, and, as a result, have begun to restore the funding to publicly-funded colleges. As reported by FiveThirtyEight, “ states increased per student spending in fiscal year 2014 … although funding remains below prerecession levels in nearly every state.”
Both Wisconsin and Illinois have said that they do not intend to raise tuition rates at public universities, which means schools will have to make up the difference somewhere. That means getting rid of faculties and programs on campus.
“All institutions of higher ed are very, very people heavy,” Jennifer Delaney, professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told HuffPo. “The bulk of our budgets go to people, so a cut of this magnitude would certainly impact [staff].”
David Bergeron, vice president of post secondary education at the Center for American Progress echoed Delaney’s point. “The majority of spending by colleges and universities are on personnel — faculty and staff. The combination of a budget cut and tuition freeze will result in cuts to those.”
It’s no surprise that these two governors have set their sights on higher education. The GOP, for some misguided reason, views intelligence as elitism, and therefore bad. A quick look at the way red states are handling the battle over Advanced Placement classes shows that they do not value education in the least.
Balancing budgets is a tricky problem and no one can please everyone. But to make even deeper cuts to state schools, firing workers, and eliminating programs isn’t going to help America’s failing educational system, and, by extension, workforce at all. Students will be less prepared to enter the job market that they already are.
At a time when a college degree is nearly mandatory to get a decent paying job, gutting public colleges and universities is just a bad move all around.