State funding for public colleges has declined dramatically in the last 20 years. People, especially from public colleges, now really like to about how education needs a new funding model, without actually proposing the model. Two Missouri college presidents say colleges need to operate differently. According to an article by Didi Tang in the Springfield, Mo. News-Leader:

[Ozarks Technical Community College Hal] Higdon and Mike Nietzel, outgoing president of Missouri State University… shared their outlook for public higher education when they met with local business leaders Friday morning.

A three-year baccalaureate degree or a one-year associate degree have become likely options, said Nietzel, adding summer courses would be necessary to fast-track a degree.

Neither of these changes really represents dramatic changes in the way colleges operate. Or at least the changes won’t address the bigger problem, a decline in state funding. As Nietzel said, “They will never come back.”

As the Obama administration talks about making the United States the world leader in college graduates and business leaders complain about a lack of skilled workers, it’s worth considering the implications of this funding drought.

Frittering about on the edges and talking about things like summer courses is an understandable way to talk about this issue, but it’s ultimately a diversion. If tax dollars don’t come back into public higher education, less people will simply go to college or participate in postsecondary vocational training. Indeed, there’s some indication that low-income students are already making this decision.

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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