State fiscal support for higher education has met sluggish growth recently, a trend that has commu- nity college leaders working to meet student needs despite a shrinking resource pool.
According to an annual report released in January
by Grapevine, state financial aid for higher education
increased just 1. 6 percent between the 2017 and 2018 fiscal
years. The lackluster upturn in funding is a nationwide
issue, as a third of states decreased their higher education
appropriations while another dozen increased their dollars
allotted only slightly.
Although some states are impacted more than others,
two-year institutions across the country are feeling the bite
of lost funding, leading to painful reductions in programming and staff. Last year, Illinois broke out of a long-term
budget freeze, even as community colleges there still confront the impasse’s lingering effects and the possibility of
less aid compared to what they had in prior years.
“Schools are reallocating resources back into their core
educational missions,” says Matt Berry, deputy director for
legislative and external affairs at the Illinois Community
College Board (ICCB). “In some instances, they consolidated
class offerings or reduced student support services they
had provided previously. Even before the impasse, we had
some colleges trimming budgets and being lean.”
Grim national picture aside, institution officials are deter-
mined to provide students with the supports they require
while lobbying state lawmakers for extra resources.
“Advocating (for funding) means continuing to prove our
worth,” says George Evans, president of Kaskaskia College in
Centralia, Illinois. “People who are financially responsible
come to community colleges because they’re going to get the
same programmatic outcome as they would on the university level. That’s what we’ll continue to promote.”
DEALING WITH A BUDGET FREEZE
A total of 19 states reported funding decreases between the
2017 fiscal year, spanning 2016-17, and the 2018 fiscal year,
according to the Grapevine survey, which compiles data on
financial support for colleges and universities.
Community colleges are making
efforts to move past the state
higher ed funding crisis.
BY DOUGLAS J. GUTH