State universities forced to cut programs in high demand areas

Here and Now

State colleges are cutting support for programs in popular departments, according to a recent New York Times report

Subjects losing funding for programs notably include health care, technical skills and engineering. The skillsets learned in these programs are not only appealing to a large number of students but are also some of the most highly sought after skills in today’s job market.

“The reason they’re cutting some of these more popular programs is that those more popular programs, the ones that are more likely to get students actual jobs when they graduate, are also more expensive to teach in many cases,” said Catherine Rampell, an economics reporter for The New York Times “The reason why is because they require more equipment.”

Along with the cost for more equipment, Rampell also cited the cost of paying professors. She said professors in high demand job fields have more career options and therefore are able to demand higher salaries.

State colleges are unable to afford support for some of these popular programs because of cutbacks in federal funding. Total state funding fell by 7.6 percent on average in the 2011-2012 year, according to a report from the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University. Notably, Arizona has scaled back its higher education budget by 31 percent since the start of the United States’ current recession.

“What’s happening is that over the last 25 years every time there has been a recession, states cut their funding for public schools — for higher education, public schools, I should say. Then when the economy recovers, they don’t actually restore those funds,” Rampell said.

Last October, MSNBC reported there was an average 8.3 percent tuition increase nationwide from 2010 to 2011 for four-year public colleges. However, this has not been enough to offset the loss of government funding. Often caps are placed on tuition hikes by the state, because, Rampell said, politicians understand the cost of education and do not want to lose younger constituents.

Students have the option to enroll in for-profit higher education institutions to seek their preferred programs, but many of these schools leave students with greater debt and unemployment rates than public schools and may not teach the same skillsets. President Barack Obama’s administration has recently introduced regulations, aimed at making it harder the federal financial aid to reach for-profit educators. 

Students who stay with state colleges may be left waiting to enroll in their desired programs or may have to change degrees entirely. This poses a problem for more than just the students. In her article, Rampell claimed the cutbacks are, “…cutting training for jobs the economy needs most.”

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