February 16, 2021
Many states slashed higher education funding last year, fearing the pandemic would torpedo state revenues. The higher education sector, no stranger to steep cuts during economic recessions, braced for further budget reductions in the 2022 fiscal year.
But many public higher education officials’ worst fears have not been realized — at least not yet, experts say. Governors’ proposed state budgets are a mixed bag, with several states pushing to increase higher education funding or at least restore last year’s cuts.
“We’re seeing almost as many budget proposals protecting or bolstering higher ed as we are cutting higher ed,” said Sunny Deye, program director for postsecondary education at the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Several governors acknowledged higher education is important to economic recovery, Deye said. Unlike in past recessions, many public institutions might not have untapped pricing flexibility, meaning that can’t make up any cuts in the state funding by raising tuition.
“There’s an understanding in this recession, more so than those in the past, that tuition has really been pushed about as far as it could go,” Deye said. “Given the pandemic and the economic situation that we’re in, higher ed investments are going to be critical to get economies back on track.”