“Talent is being invested in our conveyor belts.”
This is how Governor Gavin Newsom described proposed spending increases for public colleges and universities in California.
These few words help explain a major reason why many states have increased their budgets for higher education more than at any time since 2008 and are proposing more allocations down the road.
An analysis by the National Governors Association found that thirty-eight governors raised the issue of higher education spending in their statewide speeches. Collectively, they have called for billions of dollars to be raised over the next five years.
This comes a decade after state funding for public universities and colleges as a whole fell to the billion-dollar inflation-adjusted dollar level before the last recession – and at a time when many state public universities and colleges are being targeted. Politicians fight culture.
But some of those same politicians are now focusing on the need for educated workers to compete in an economy where talent is lacking, as is true in the red state as well as the blue state.
“Economic and workforce development has been hampered, so proposals to link education and the economy are a priority on governors’ agendas,” said Tom Harnish, vice president of public relations for the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, or SHEEO.
“The connection between education and the workforce has become clearer, and the urgency has become much greater,” Harnish said.
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While the rhetoric around financing higher education was previously about creating opportunities, much of the new funding for public colleges and universities is now clearly being targeted for training students where there is a shortage of labor.
Some governors and legislatures want more alignment between education and industry. This is the goal of the Utah Cluster Acceleration Partnership, which funds public higher education institutions to develop programs that meet the needs of regional or statewide industries, and the Wyoming Innovation Partnership, which is partnered with a community of community colleges, the University of Wyoming. And economic development groups to support the economy and the workforce.
Colorado is proposing to spend more than $ 95 million to bring school districts and colleges together to speed up the training necessary for employers.
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said, “We need to do more to align the state’s K-12, higher-performance, workforce, and economic development efforts. “There is strength in their combination.”
Other states are providing funding to strengthen staff training in their public higher education institutions. Under the MoExcels program in Missouri, colleges and universities, for example, have begun competing for millions of dollars for “employer-driven education and training programs.”
In Oklahoma, Governor Kevin Steet said: “We need to reward our universities for producing graduates in crisis areas.”
States are also increasingly directing financial aid to students who choose majors who can train them for the jobs they need.
The new Future Ready Iowa Plan, for example, offers free tuition at community colleges and a training program for Iwans for such jobs. New scholarships are also being created in Kansas for students in high demand.
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Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer described similar initiatives in her state as “such programs that boost our economy and empower our people.”
South Carolina is offering free tuition at its technical college for students who are looking for certification in areas where there is a labor shortage, including manufacturing, hospitality, construction, transportation, logistics and criminal justice.
Henry McMaster, Governor of South Carolina, said, “Access to higher education and capacity is essential to ensure that our state has a trained and skilled workforce to compete for future jobs and investments.”
Mississippi is raising more money to train people for jobs in areas including commercial trucking, advanced manufacturing and welding. The governor, Tate Reeves, called it “a strategy that will meet the needs of employers and fill vacancies for jobs offered above average wages.”
And Connecticut is increasing its spending on workforce development tenfold, including tuition-free certificate courses “designed by businesses around the skills they need,” said Governor Ned Lamont.
Many states have emphasized health care. Maine has proposed more funding for universities and colleges to expand the nursing program; Georgia and Hawaii, for training more nurses and doctors; And Alaska, to increase the supply of doctors.
College and university officials are cautious about this approach, which means not only the money will come back but also the importance of the credentials they provide.
Paul Johnson, president of the Colorado School of Mines, said, “Having a more highly educated population in your state is going to be a good thing for your economy and society in the long run.”
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Johnson, on the other hand, said, “The slippery slope is when you get to the point where you start saying that every certificate a university has created must be directly linked to a certain kind of professional return on investment. Values begin to be missed. ”
Yet, seeing higher education funding rebound – for whatever reason – is “certainly much better than the opposite,” he said.
The recession that began in 2008 saw most states significantly reduce their support for public higher education; As of 2018, inflation-adjusted state allocations for colleges and universities are below the 2008 level of $ 6.6 billion or an average of 13 percent less per student, according to the Budget and Policy Priorities report. In some states, per-student funding has dropped by more than 30 percent.
According to an annual analysis conducted jointly by SHEEO and Illinois State University, allocations have now begun to increase. In the current fiscal year, state support for higher education has increased by 8.3 percent, exceeding the cumulative $ 100 billion for the first time. This is before many governors and legislators begin calling for more spending in fiscal years that will begin July 1 in most states.
Part of this is thanks to a 15 percent increase in the state’s income tax revenue and federal stimulus funds, of which $ 7.2 billion has gone to public colleges and universities in the last three years.
This worries veterans about budget craze.
“When the state has money, higher education tends to be more deserving,” said Dennis Jones, president of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, or Emeritus, or NCHEMS, a nonprofit organization that provides counseling services to colleges and universities. “Then the first thing is cut off if the states don’t have the money.”
There are also concerns about the over-emphasis on staff training, including the use of targeted scholarships to guide students into careers where their interests may be elsewhere. People from low-income families are most likely to accept such offers, while their higher-income counterparts may study their preferences.
Taylor Randall, president of the University of Utah, said “turning graduates into part of the labor force is just part of the challenge,” noting that many states are rushing to retrain adults who want to change careers.
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“It’s a way to deal with the problem,” Randall said. “Another way to do this is to build it into individuals as they go through the first round of their graduation – creating a student who is marketable at the moment but can innovate in the future.” This, he said, requires a broader education that includes humanities and other subjects. “There are some skills you can learn across many majors.”
So far, additional state spending on higher education has not necessarily replaced existing scholarship or funding programs, Jones said.
“It’s an add-on,” he said. “I do not see it as a replacement. What we are seeing is a marginal push to focus on those things. But I don’t think there has been a huge investment in higher education historically. ”
As an underlying basis, supporting higher education strengthens the economy, analysis by NCHEMS and others shows that it increases per capita personal income and tax revenue and reduces the cost of social services.
Even a 1 percent increase in the number of college graduates raises the standard of living for everyone, one study found, while another study found that investing in institutions where the graduation rate is lower could help increase employment, average household income and gross domestic product. This is according to a summary of a study by the leftist think tank The Urban Institute.
Nevertheless, the involvement of political leaders in developing the workforce can be bad news for universities and colleges in an important way: states are pointing to rising funding for apprentices and high school-level careers and technical education, or even CTE, which in many cases allows students. Completely surrounding college.
Although Idaho Gov. Brad Little has proposed increasing spending for public universities, for example, he has asked for $ 10 million to “accelerate CTE programs that meet the needs of local industries” and $ 50 million for apprenticeship and other types of job training. Further west, the 200 million Future Ready Oregon program will support not only community colleges, but also local workforce boards and apprenticeship programs.
Tying education more forcefully to economic outcomes is one way to regain support for it, at least, Jones says – and transcends demographic and political divisions.
“If you ask students why they’re going to college, more than 90 percent of them will say it’s a job,” he said. “So it combines all these things that talk to students, it talks to parents, it talks to lawmakers. And that’s the selling point that goes beyond blue and red. “
The story was created with state higher education funding Hatchinger report, A non-profit, independent news organization focusing on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for us Higher Education Newsletter.