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  Online Article - July 2009
The recession has created new problems for small, private colleges across the country. In a special online article, National CrossTalk describes how one such institution—LaGrange College, in western Georgia—is trying to cope with new economic realities.
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News Editorial Other Voices Interview

Overcrowded and Underfunded
New York’s public university systems, and beleaguered students, are an extreme example of national trends

  In This Issue

Feature Articles
Overcrowded and Underfunded
New York’s public university systems, and beleaguered students, are an extreme example of national trends

Turning Students Away
The plight of Florida’s community colleges suggests the depth of the state’s financial crisis

Diminishing State Support
Pennsylvania reduces state aid amid relentless tuition hikes and record enrollments

Behind the Eight Ball
Illinois resorts to budgetary sleight-of-hand and one-time fixes to maintain higher education funding

Tuition Policy Debate
Washington’s public higher education costs continue to shift from the state to the student

Calamity in California
State’s battered budget leads to huge fee increases and less access to public universities

News from the Center
New Center Associates and National Center Policy Studies Group

Core Principles
In this recession, the highest priority should be placed on college access and affordability

Other Voices
A Societal Imperative
Changing the way we think about community colleges

Breaking the Affordability Barrier
How much of the college access problem is attributable to lack of information about financial aid?

William Trombley with his wife Audrey in 1999.

William Trombley
Senior Editor of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education
Founding Editor of National Crosstalk

By Jon Marcus

New York

JUST UPTOWN from the epicenter of the world’s economic crisis, Borough of Manhattan Community College is a symbol of how the financial cataclysm that began a few blocks away on Wall Street has battered public higher education in America.

It’s crowded. Very, very crowded. Every seat is taken in every classroom you can see. Some of those seats are in the aisles. There are lines outside the computer labs. Lines snake through the food court. There are particularly long lines at the financial-aid office.

New York’s tuition increases are nothing less than a tax on students, critics say. “We call it the SUNY tax,” says Maria Davila, a 21-year-old senior at SUNY New Paltz.

With a central campus built to handle 8,000 students, Borough of Manhattan is straining to contain some 21,700, part of a 12 percent enrollment increase at the six community colleges of the City University of New York and an eight percent jump at CUNY systemwide, including in its 11 senior colleges. Enrollment at CUNY’s upstate counterpart, the 64-campus State University of New York, hit an unprecedented 439,523 this fall. At CUNY, there are more than 259,000 students, surpassing the previous record set in 1974, when it was free.


Turning Students Away
The plight of Florida’s community colleges suggests the depth of the state’s financial crisis

By Robert A. Jones


FLORIDA’S EDUCATORS have predicted an Armageddon here almost as frequently as weathermen predict hurricanes. Each time the state whacked the higher education budget, the predictions of doom grew more dire. But no one expected disaster to strike quite so dramatically as it did on a hot summer’s night here in Miami, at the state’s flagship community college.

The night of June 17, 2009 already has become something of a legend at Miami Dade College, with virtually all the administrators and students able to tell their own stories of the evening’s horrors. It was the night when burgeoning demand for education ran headlong into shrunken supply.

Miami Dade College does not, initially, present itself as the poster child of broken budgets. It sprawls over eight campuses and this year will attract 170,000 students, making it the largest public institution of higher education in the nation. Its campuses have art galleries, intercollegiate sports teams and literary magazines.

Eduardo Padrón (right), president of Miami Dade College, chats with students at the downtown campus. His audacious plan for a half-cent sales tax increase in Dade County would create a badly needed source of funding for the college.

Miami Dade, in fact, is a place of many superlatives in the world of institutions that grant associate’s degrees: It produces more two-year degrees, more minority graduates, and collects more Pell grants than any other public college in the country. Its president, Eduardo Padrón, was on the short list of candidates for appointment as President Barack Obama’s secretary of education.

And so, considering the college’s size and expertise, nothing initially seemed amiss when it announced it would open online registration for the fall semester at midnight on June 17. Looking back, however, various signs pointed to trouble.


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