ALTHOUGH HIGHER education is enjoying prosperous times, they are not likely to
last, Harold A. Hovey, president of State Policy Research, Inc., warns in a paper
recently published by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.
"The last five years have been about as good as it gets in state funding
of higher education," Hovey writes in a report titled "State Spending for
Higher Education in the Next Decade."
State appropriations have increased more than the inflation rate; tuition has
been frozen in some states and reduced in others; new campuses have been built or
planned and new state scholarship programs have been started.
But "the national budget projections suggest that this environment will not
continue," Hovey says. Simply to maintain the current level of services, "state
support needs to increase by nearly six percent a year in baseline projections."
For most states, this would mean either raising taxes substantially or favoring
higher education over competing public service demands, such as elementary and secondary
education, health, welfare and prisons. Hovey does not believe either of these possibilities
"If extraordinarily good times were followed by normal times, it might be
possible for states to make fiscal adjustments in less than a crisis environment,"
Hovey writes. "However, extraordinarily good times are usually followed by corrections
in the private economy called recessions. When they occur, states often are caught
in a situation where their budgets are hugely out of balance."
And when that happens, higher education is vulnerable because it is the largest
discretionary spending item in most state budgets.
Higher education's share of state spending has been declining in recent years,
Hovey says, in part because governors and state legislatures tend to think that public
colleges and universities have more fiscal flexibility than most state agencies.
For instance, in most states they can raise tuition to soften the impact of budget
Sharp increases in the cost of Medicaid and state corrections systems in the late
1980s and early '90s also have cut into higher education spending. "Their gains
had to come at the expense of other programs," the paper states.
"The currently relatively generous increases in state support of higher education
do not reflect changes in patterns and practices of state budgeting," Hovey
concludes. "They only reflect the standard response to extraordinarily strong
fiscal conditions. They will disappear when those fiscal conditions disappear. Both
will disappear soon."
In a second paper published this summer -- "All One System: A Second Look"
-- Harold L. Hodgkinson examines the relationships between higher education and the
When Hodgkinson, who is director of the Institute for Educational Leadership's
Center for Demographic Policy, first studied this issue in 1985, he found that "people
in one segment of the educational system existed in almost total disregard of the
efforts of all the other segments."
Fourteen years later, "things are beginning to shift slightly," Hodgkinson
writes in the introduction to his "second look." There is a lot more discussion
about the need for cooperation between elementary and secondary schools on the one
hand and colleges and universities on the other, he finds, but few specific steps
have been taken to bring about that collaboration.
The Hodgkinson paper is the first in a series of K-16 publications co-sponsored
by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education and the Institute for
A second paper, written by P. Michael Timpane, senior advisor for educational policy
at RAND and former president of Teachers College, Columbia University, will be published
The Center also recently published a report on higher education policy in the state
of South Dakota, the first in a planned series of state case studies. The report
was written by Mario Martinez, assistant professor in the Department of Educational
Management and Development at New Mexico State University.
The Hovey paper and the Martinez report on South Dakota are available on the World
Wide Web (http:/www.higher education.org) or by fax from the San Jose office of the
National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, (408) 271-2697. The Hodgkinson
publication is available for $15 per copy and can be ordered by sending e-mail, fax
or a letter to The Institute for Educational Leadership, 1001 Connecticut Avenue,
Suite 310, Washington, DC, 20036. Telephone: (202) 822-8405; fax: (202) 872-4050;