Public colleges across the country are cutting costs, raising tuition, and laying off staff. Most coverage of these unfortunate developments has generally focused on the trouble for students who attend these schools.

But there’s another group that suffers: the staff at these colleges. How long until the budget people get to them?

According to an article by Anne Ryman in the Arizona Republic:

Many colleges give their employees sharp discounts on tuition, but that time-honored tradition is coming under more scrutiny nationwide as colleges grapple with declines in state funding. At the [Arizona] state universities, employees who work at least 20 hours a week and their spouses can take up to nine credit hours a semester in the fall and spring and six credit hours in the summer and pay only $25 in tuition a semester. Their children get a 75 percent break on tuition.

“You look at the dollars, and you say, ‘That’s a significant amount of money.’ But when you look at being able to keep top people, we have researchers who bring in more than that in a year,” said Allison Vaillancourt, the University of Arizona’s vice president for human resources.

Well right, but that’s the sort of argument used to justify all funding for state colleges; spending public money on education results in great returns in terms of research discoveries and productivity. That argument hasn’t been working so well lately.

Governors and state legislatures, facing troublesome budget shortages, have had a notoriously hard time seeing education from a long term perspective lately.

Last month Arizona Governor Jan Brewer decided she wanted to slash funding for her state’s colleges, proposing a 20 percent cut to universities and a 47 percent cut to community colleges.

In response the Arizona board of regents announced that it planned to “look for every possible cost savings and efficiency that we can find.” How long until they find faculty and staff tuition benefits? [Image via]

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