What’s Happening to Public Colleges?

America’s state universities have funding problems across the country. Because of this tuition is higher and education is even harder to access. This is trouble for American education, writes University of California, Davis chancellor Linda Katehi in the Huffington Post, because:

The absence of sufficient state and federal funding will force the public research universities to continue to raise tuition and fees. And, while Pell Grants and Cal Grants would assist those from economically disadvantaged homes, high school students whose families occupy the lower and middle rungs of the middle class will increasingly find themselves unable to pay for a public education, or forced to assume substantial loans.

This is one version of our future where assets — and not ability — will determine access to the best public universities. Such a future, all too imaginable though far from inevitable, starkly contradicts the principles governing the creation of the land-grant universities through the Morrill Act in 1862.

Katehi is writing specifically about the University of California and its long-ignored Master Plan for Higher Education but it applies to state universities across the country as well.

Yes, at this point colleges and universities can survive by increasingly privatizing themselves and forcing higher and higher tuition on undergraduates, but that’s not an appropriate strategy to create an educated population. President Obama has pledged to make the United States the leader in world college graduation rates by 2020. The more education costs, the harder it is to reach that goal.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer