Colleges & Universities Forced to Deal with Less

Editor’s note – more on the future of higher education:
Education reporter shares ideas on the future of college
Pennsylvania chancellor discusses big changes in higher education

SUSIE GHARIB: The pressure is on — from the White House to state capitols, to cut college costs. And as states slash appropriations, many colleges say trimming the budget is a tough assignment. Sylvia Hall visits a school system in Pennsylvania to see how its handling the cuts.

SYLVIA HALL, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: A cafeteria serves meals without trays. New, energy-efficient buildings cut down on heating, cooling and lighting bills, and 50 jobs sit empty.

The strategies look different, but at Shippensburg University, they all serve the same purpose: cutting costs in a time when every penny counts.

BILL RUUD, PRES., SHIPPENBURG UNIVERSITY: We are at a point where we have to say everything is available to be reduced.

HALL: This year, Shippensburg University and its 13 sister schools face a possible 20 percent drop in state funding. That threat comes after an 18 percent cut last year. System chancellor John Cavanaugh says that forces tough decisions.

JOHN CAVANAUGH, CHANCELLOR: So, if we’re going to fix a roof on a building, for example, that’s now going to have to come out of the operating budget, which means you’re going to have to make a choice: do we fix the building or do we offer a section? And those are choices that are difficult to make.

HALL: Shippensburg isn’t unique. State appropriations to colleges across the country have been falling for years. And as cash-strapped states struggle, college support is often cut. Goldie Blumenstyk has written about it for years.

GOLDIE BLUMENSTYK, SR. WRITER, THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER ED: States are not keeping up. There’s a lot of disinvestment in public higher education going on right now, and that’s where 85 percent of the college students go to college.

HALL: Published in-state tuition and fees at Shippensburg are up more than 7 percent this year. They run just below $9,000 per year, close to the national average.

CAVANAUGH: Twenty years ago, the state paid for almost twice as much as what they’re paying for now. So, if the state isn’t paying for it, then that cost gets shifted over onto to the student.

HALL : Cavanaugh says at this point, the transfer from state funding to student tuition is almost dollar for dollar. Some say its time for colleges and universities to step outside the traditional model and start finding new ways to do more with less.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You’re coming up with a lot more different ideas.

HALL : Some of those new ways at Shippensburg include online classes and using video conferencing to teach across multiple campuses. They’ve also stepped outside the semester system to offer some shorter courses.

RUUD: Yes, we’re adding more online classes. Yes, we’re adding more summer classes. Yes, we’re adding more winter classes. Yes, we raise class sizes. The challenge with raising class sizes, you get to a point where you ruin the educational experience.

HALL: These administrators say more clarity about how much money will be coming from state governments in the years ahead, not just next year, will help them plan new ways to deliver a college education to students. Sylvia Hall, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, Shippensburg, Pennsylvania.

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