Why Are America's State Universities Starting to Look More Like the Ivy League?
“The University of California at Berkeley — birthplace of the free-speech movement, home to nine living Nobel laureates — subsists now in perpetual austerity. Star faculty take mandatory furloughs. Classes grow perceptibly larger each year. Roofs leak; e-mail crashes. One employee mows the entire campus. Wastebaskets are emptied once a week. Some professors lack telephones.”
- “UC-Berkeley and other ‘public Ivies’ in fiscal peril” by Daniel de Vise, The Washington Post, December 26, 2011
That quote says a lot about what budget cuts have done to some of America’s most eminent public institutions. Daniel de Vise, the article’s author, goes on to offer some other case studies too . . .
- Twenty years ago, the University of Virginia had 26 percent of its operating budget paid by the state. Now, it’s down to 7 percent, making UVA’s budget look a lot like a private institution’s.
- At the University of Michigan, the state’s contribution has dropped from 48 to 17 percent.
Berkeley is also starting to act in ways that make it look more like a private, high-status institution. Tuition has doubled in six years. The university is admitting more out-of-state who are willing to pay higher tuition to earn a Berkeley degree.
The ultimate result will be that more of America’s more elite public institutions (including UC-Berkeley, UCLA, the University of Michigan, and the University North Carolina) will also start to look more like elite private institutions. Granted, they need to change in order to survive. But as a result, they will probably serve fewer in-state, budget-conscious students and their families.
Wait a minute. Aren’t in-state, budget conscious students the very ones that state universities are supposed to serve? It’s just another sign that soaring college costs and shrinking budgets are throwing American higher education into a curious, and troubling, downward cycle.
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