In Texas, for example, an editorial in the San Antonio Express-News notes
The Legislature faces a dilemma that will impact every Texan — balancing the biennial budget in the face of a deficit estimated at $15 billion to $27 billion.And, continuing with the same editorial, that poses an intriguing problem when it comes to higher education.
Last year, when the state required a 5 percent reduction to balance the current biennial budget, 41 percent came at the expense of higher education. Preliminary Senate and House budgets for 2012-13 revealed that higher education has again been targeted to absorb some of the deepest cuts.
Not surprisingly, both last year's cuts and this session's proposed cuts to the higher education budget have caused many students, educators and state leaders to wonder if higher education remains a priority in Texas.
In 2000, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board formulated a plan called “Closing the Gaps,” which was designed to increase student participation, success, excellence and research by 2015. Although Texas has made considerable strides toward many of these benchmarks, large educational achievement gaps remain.
Additional cuts to higher education will force our universities to raise tuition, significantly limit course offerings, and substantially decrease enrollment. These changes will halt our future development and compromise the progress we have already made.Cuts in Michigan could mean a 15 percent slice to higher education in that state, and officials at Michigan State University and local politicians are not happy.
Needless to say, these cuts to the eight schools in the East Lansing district and Michigan State University could have dyer consequences for the residents of the city. State Rep. Mark Meadows (D-East Lansing) said students from kindergarten to college will eventually be the ones hurt if the bill is passed.
“I think what the governor has done here by cutting $470 (per student) out of the K-12 budget is put, not just East Lansing, but virtually every school at risk,” said Meadows. “I think Okemos was already looking at closing a couple of schools and I believe this might pretty much double the deficit.”
East Lansing City Manager Ted Staton said the bill is a dual-threat to Michiganders, not only affecting education, but employment as well.In Tennessee, students worry about their future. And in Washington State, the potential for another year of budget cuts has alumni at Washington State University calling for answers.
The above examples illustrate that higher education in general and education programs specifically are not convenient targets for budget cuts, but they are seen as nothing special. That's a mistake. Without a strong educational base, our current and future generations will not be able to sustain America's strong (though not excellent) standing.
But who cares? It's only in the name of trying to balance a budget.