American Colleges and the Midterm Elections

Yes, this election is going to matter.

While perhaps the political breakdown of Congress will have no immediate impact on America’s colleges, the ballot questions in many states, it turns out, are going to matter a lot. According to a piece by Kevin Kiley in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Voters in a dozen states will weigh in on ballot measures this fall that could affect higher-education policy or colleges’ bottom lines.

Arizona, whose tough new immigration law has already stoked racial tensions in the state, will ask residents whether to ban affirmative action in education and other areas. Tuition matters made the ballot in Idaho and New Mexico, and colleges in four other states would receive money for construction projects if voters agree to authorize bonds. Several states have ballot questions that seek to limit tax increases or lower tax rates, which could affect spending on colleges.

Apparently property and sales tax laws up for votes in Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, and Massachusetts would reduce the amount of money available for higher education. Another ballot initiative in Oklahoma “would require the state to spend a minimum amount each year on elementary and secondary schools.” This would, however, reduce the amount of state money available for colleges.

Another proposal, this one in Arizona, would preferential racial treatment in education and employment. A ballot initiative in Idaho would allow the University of Idaho to charge tuition. Currently Idaho’s flagship university operates like the University of California, where there is no tuition, only “education fees.”

Only three states, Alaska, Rhode Island, and Washington, have proposals to spend money on higher education. All of these are one-time bond measures to build or renovate specific buildings, however, not new systems for paying for public higher education.

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