State Budgets and Tuition Hikes

Ohio legislators finally approved a state budget yesterday. And if you think the decisions were tough — and the cuts to programs and education harsh — wait until the next go around when the federal stimulus money is just a fond memory. Either the state and national economy are going to have to make a quick and vigorous recovery. Taxes are going to have to be hiked. Or programs, services and jobs are going to have to be chopped. If nominated for state office I won’t run. If elected I won’t serve. Oops. I digress.

But the fact is Ohio, like most states, will have to make some difficult choices — and soon.

Here’s the headline deck from this morning’s Akron Beacon Journal — based on an Associated Press article.

Funding slashed in Ohio budget

Legislators agree to cut thousands of state jobs, remove tuition caps and reduce spending on programs

Oh boy.

Here’s a decision that will be made this afternoon related to state spending. The Kent State Board will meet in a special session — and I expect the main topic will be whether or not to increase tuition.  Gee. Let’s see. To up student tuition or not. My money goes on the side of a tuition increase.

And I’m not saying that is wrong — but it sure is tough for the many students who work and take out loans to pay for an education at a time when there aren’t many jobs to be had. And it’s tough for parents — many of whom are struggling in what is by any measure a long and deep recession.

So if Kent State — and other public universities and colleges in Ohio — do increase tuition, it will be interesting to see how they explain the decision.  To the extent that administrators have not been viewed as good managers of public funds it makes this kind of communication all the harder. And it’s a case where actions — president’s salaries and bonuses and so on — now speaker louder than words.

Lots of these decisions ahead in Ohio and elsewhere. This is a time when we need honest and direct communication from elected leaders, university administrators and others. Not many easy decisions or answers here when it comes to state spending today or in the years ahead.

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