Students vs. Professors: Who Deserves More State Money?

From Education News' "The Higher Education Bubble"

When the state of Illinois increased its 2012 higher education budget by 12 percent it should have been good news. Given President Obama's call last week for colleges to halt crazy tuition hikes, and the fact that states have been steadily cutting their contributions to public universities, word of a budget increase should be cause for celebration. Not so fast, reports Education News.

While Illinois increases its higher education spending by 12 percent, a new study by the Illinois State University has found that a large proportion of this money will not be used to benefit students — and will, instead, top up the pension program. The additional funding for the 2012 fiscal year is going into the State Universities Retirement System (SURS)

Education News, which recently published an excellent set of graphics on whether there is a higher education bubble, makes some connections that raise important questions about the priorities of higher education funding. From the publication:

  • ...While it’s regrettable that students seem to be shouldering even more costs, that’s not the SURS’ fault, say officials.  SURS is currently carrying a $17.2 billion liability after decades of “under-funding” by legislators and reduced returns in investment.
  • However, while this [12 percent] increase in [state] funding...will look to make up for that, students are also being asked to pick up the bill for much of the rising cost of classrooms.
  • Students in 2011 paid 30 percent more for a year of college than students at the university four years prior. In 2007, the cost was $13,496; last year it was $18,189.
  • This comes after University of Illinois announced that they would raise tuition costs for incoming freshmen next year, leaving new students with a price tag nearly 12 percent higher than in 2009.

In the article, Education News explains that university system officials find these actions "regrettable" but part of the "ugly reality" they face in an era of depleting federal and state resources.  Ugly reality? Average student loan debt in Illinois was more than $32,000 in July 2011, a 6 percent increase over 2010 and above the national average of about $30,000, according to figures published by the St. Louis Business Journal. That's an ugly reality.