In tough times the jobless and underemployed may be tempted to flock back to school to fill the void and start over, but public universities are struggling with budget cuts that have eroded service and forced some schools to curb enrollment.
State universities make up all 10 members of our list of largest schools by undergraduate enrollment and three of the top 10 in graduate enrollment. State funding as a percentage of university operating funding has fallen to 30% from 50% in the last two decades, according to Moody's Investors Service. States funneled some $90 billion into public universities in 2009 but support is likely to be stagnant or cut until states can get a hold on their own fiscal challenges, Moody's said in a report last month.
Universities face falling off a funding "cliff" in 2012, when federal stimulus funds taper off. The hardest-hit states, where stimulus funds made up 4% or more of state support for public universities, will be Arizona - home to the nations largest school by undergraduate enrollment, Arizona State University - Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada and California, Moody's says, citing data from Illinois State University's Center for the Study of Education Policy.
At least 43 states have cut assistance to public colleges and universities, according to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, resulting in reductions in faculty and staff in addition to tuition increases.
Tuition hikes can't make up for all of that, though some public universities are attempting to do just that. California's Board of Regents faced student protests last fall when it voted to raise undergraduate tuition by 32%. Florida's 11 public universities, three of which rank among the 10 largest in undergraduate enrollment, will raise tuition by 15% for the upcoming academic year, the second straight increase, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
In Minnesota, higher education funding cuts mean 9,400 students will lose state aid grants and the rest of state aid recipients will see their grants cut 19%. The University of Minnesota is the 10th-largest in the nation by undergraduate enrollment and third-largest in graduate education.
Image: Arizona State University
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