Saddled with Student Debt? Blame Your State Legislature

A report out from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities details the drastic cuts made to state public higher education budgets since the start of the Great Recession in 2008.

What happens when states cut funding for higher education?

More of the cost of attending college is shifted onto the individuals. Considering stagnant or falling incomes and the loss of household wealth caused by the financial crisis, few people can afford that rising price tag. That means folks who would benefit from attending college—and in turn benefit all of society—choose not to go. Others take on student loans, graduating into higher earnings that then go toward paying off that debt rather than generating more demand in the economy, let alone saving toward a new home or building up a retirement nest egg.

Schools cut their budgets, often taking money out of instruction and student services. Full-time tenure-track faculty are replaced with poorly paid adjuncts and graduate student instructors, making it harder to provide the attention students need.

Courses and even whole programs are eliminated, or schools are forced to close entirely, leaving more room for for-profit colleges to prey on vulnerable students.

Opportunities are lost. Our workforce becomes less competitive. The entire economy takes a hit.

But this doesn’t have to continue. As the report points out, many states have begun reversing these cuts, and some are now increasing spending per student. That’s the kind of trend we want to see!

While the 2016 legislative and budgeting sessions are over for most states, the upcoming elections offer you the opportunity to call for increased support of public goods like education and workforce development. Ask your candidates: Do you support debt-free higher education? And are you going to put your money where your mouth is?