Economic recovery should mean more higher education funding

Despite improvements in the economy, UConn students are in the midst of suffering a 31 percent increase in tuition, in part due to state budget cuts. (File Photo/The Daily Campus)

As a result of the recession in 2008 many states were forced to cut funding to public universities in order to balance their budgets. This placed a large burden on the students enrolled in college at the time, as they saw tuition increases of thousands of dollars as states cut funding more than 20 percent in many cases. However, despite the fact that the recession was considered to have ended more than seven years ago and there has been relatively solid economic growth in the past few years, states on average are spending 18 percent less per student on higher education than they were in 2008. Overall, the average annual tuition at public universities has increased about $2,333 or 33 percent, since 2008.

Now, however, the recession is largely behind the country. The U.S. has experienced a record 78 months of private sector job growth, the unemployment rate is less than 5 percent, wages have been increasing for all income brackets and the stock market is at a record high. However, at UConn students are in the midst of suffering a 31 percent increase in tuition, in part due to state budget cuts. In the past several years it has taken efforts by many active students on campus to persuade the state of Connecticut to cut funding less. Funding was still cut, but student activism was able to reduce how much was lost.

Funding higher education should no longer be just a tool that legislators can use to balance the budget. Studies have shown that for every dollar a state invests in public universities, they get  $11 back. Even accounting for error, that is a fantastic return on investment. If the monetary incentive isn’t enough, states should consider that getting a college education has changed the lives of countless people and provides an opportunity for those who are less fortunate to build a better lives for themselves. Increasing tuition costs only serves to slam that door shut for the people who need it most

In a short-term sense, the need to avoid a deficit can make cutting education funding an attractive option, especially because the difference in costs can be transferred to the students enrolled. But now that we are not facing economic crisis, states must make every effort not only to avoid reducing funding, but to increase it to pre-recession levels at the very least.