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With the economy heading south…

January 23, 2008

A growing chorus of economists are predicting that the U.S. is headed toward a recession. That chorus reached a crescendo during the recent market selloff. What will a recession mean for higher education institutions around the country?

A December 2007 report by the National Governors Association predicted that state budget revenue would decline in 2008. Unfortunately, that report may no longer reflect the current realities of the national economy. With state budgets tightening, higher education will most likely face additional pressure to trim legislative requests.

It appears that we are already seeing this happen in California, where Governor Schwarzenegger's cut both higher education systems by ten percent in his proposed budget. These cuts are happening at an inopportune time for California and other states around this country.

The Mercury News editorial board said it best - "California needs the steady flow of an educated workforce to thrive. Cutting money for two- and four-year colleges next year would be a step backward that would affect more than just the entering freshman class. Legislators must do whatever it takes - making hard choices, eliminating tax loopholes or increasing some taxes - to reverse it."

But the only way to really change course is for institutions to more effectively engage their alumni, staff, students and community supporters to help deliver that key message to state legislators around the country. These groups all have a huge incentive to get involved because they are the ones that will feel the greatest impact of the cuts: Students through increased tuition, staff through layoffs, community members through decreased community services and alumni through a more aggressive request for donations. Only when this larger coalition speaks with a united voice at the legislature will higher education institutions be able to effectively make its case for adequate state funding.




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