Academic Minute Podcast

Jennifer Delaney, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign – State Spending for Higher Education and Cuts

How long does it take to restore state spending on higher education?

Jennifer Delaney, professor of higher education in the department of education policy, organization and leadership at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, examines the history.

Jennifer A. Delaney is a Professor of Higher Education in the Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). In addition, Dr. Delaney is a member of the Illinois Board of Higher Education. She is the editor of the new book Volatility in State Spending for Higher Education, published by the American Educational Research Association. Dr. Delaney’s scholarship has fallen into two broad categories: higher education finance and higher education policy, admissions, and public support. Her research has contributed to knowledge on state budgeting for higher education, guaranteed tuition policies, student financial aid, and university athletic finance. She has also investigated the external social benefits of higher education, and direct admissions including common applications. Previously, she was the Director of the Forum on the Future of Public Education and Director of the Higher Education Program at UIUC. In addition, she was an Assistant Professor of Higher Education at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She also worked for the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, and served as a consultant for the Commission on the Future of Higher Education. She earned a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from Stanford University, an Ed.M. in Higher Education from Harvard University, and a B.A. in English from the University of Michigan.

State Spending for Higher Education and Cuts

State appropriations for higher education are highly cyclical, with larger cuts than other state categories in difficult economic times and larger increases in good economic times. Our research tests whether the duration of recoveries from cuts in state appropriations for higher education has changed over time and which characteristics of states are associated with shorter or longer durations for recovery between 1984–2015. Once a state increases funding back to previous levels following a cut, funding has recovered.

We found that recovery from cuts has lengthened considerably overtime. In the 1980s, 75% of states recovered from previous cuts of 5% or greater within four years. In every decade since the 1980s, it has taken longer for state appropriations for higher education to recover from previous cuts. In the 1990s, only 45% of states recovered from previous cuts of 5% or greater within six years. In the early 2000s, recovery from 5% cuts became increasingly less likely, with only 25% recovering from such cuts within 10 years. An increasing number of states have never recovered from cuts.

In addition, we found that the rate of recovery was longest in Western states. States with higher levels of tuition at their public institutions are less likely to recover quickly from cuts than states with lower levels of tuition. States with higher levels of student financial aid were the ones most likely to recover more quickly from a cut, particularly from larger cuts.

In previous decades, institution and system leaders could safely assume that after cuts, funding would be restored. They could “hunker down and wait.” Over time, it has become clear that this approach will no longer suffice. It is taking longer and longer to recover from cuts in state support for higher education – if a recovery comes at all.

Read More:
[AERA] – Volatility in State Spending for Higher Education

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