Field of Science

A Very Clever Political Ploy

Having spent a 30+ year career at a great public institution of higher learning I have learned the good points and the bad points about public higher education. During good times, institutes of higher learning are one of the last to gain support, and during bad times they always face cuts.

But the clever ploy initiated here in Lincolnland is a marvel to behold. A couple of decades ago, revenues from the state provided nearly two-thirds of the cost of higher education. It was important to educate your citizens. But then the political leaders of our great state figured out that if you just withheld support, the institutes of higher learning would be forced to cover the difference by raising tuition.

Now of course the increase in tuition had to cover two things, real increases in the cost of education, including new unfunded mandates from the state, and difference between the former level of support and a lower level of support. This means that tuition has gone up much faster than the cost of living because not only has the cost gone up but the state support has gone down.

Presently the state supplies less than one-fourth of the cost of attending our institution. In two decades the state has reduced their support from two-thirds to less than one-fourth. And this cost has been transferred to the citizens of this state who send their kids or pay their way to attend our colleges and universities.

Now here is the clever part. Imagine that the govenor or some other major state official came out and said, "We're going to gradually cut our support of higher education form 66% to less than 25% and transfer that cost to the students and parents." Well, you can imagine the out cry! But no one ever said such a thing, they just gradually did it. And then the same guys who make this decision with every state budget they approve have the gall to dun the institutes of higher learning for tuition increases that out pace increases in the cost of living!

Yes, the blame for increased tuition, fees, and other costs is laid on the colleges and universities. If they only could get those lazy faculty to teach more. Talk about clever. Not only do they not take responsibility, they actually actively blame someone else. We had a president who laid out the numbers for anyone who wanted them, and as you may guess, he didn't last long after he began getting people to point their fingers at the legislature.

Maybe someday people of this state will understand that the public part of their state institutes of higher learning is getting smaller year by year. For years now we have referred to ourselves as a state assisted insitution rather than a state supported institution. And now economic conditions will result in a new round of budget cuts and withheld state support, so the cycle will continue.

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