How colleges in 6 states are grappling with funding cuts

Schools are seeking alternative sources of revenue to stay afloat

With dwindling state appropriations squeezing budgets for higher education, many public institutions are feeling the pinch. Writing for the New York Times, Sarah Brown highlights the degree to which several universities are tightening their budgets. 


The state faced a budget standoff that left public institutions without any funding for about 10 months. Undergraduate enrollment has dropped 32% over the past year at Chicago State University, while Western Illinois University is cutting several majors. Meanwhile, demand for STEM courses has increased at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, but there aren't enough faculty members to fill the need. 


Purdue University is experimenting with a new model of financial aid that relies less on state funding. This fall, the university launched an income-share program under which a group of upperclassmen receive an initial financial aid package averaging $14,000. Upon graduation, students in the program will repay a portion of their income for a set time, which they agree to in advance. After that, students' remaining debt will be forgiven. 

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A $1.1 billion shortfall has left the state's merit-based scholarship program in a lurch. About 16,000 students in the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS)—the state's merit-based scholarship program—may not receive sufficient funding this spring, according to Louisiana State University (LSU) President F. King Alexander. Budget cuts since 2008 have forced the university to increase tuition. But in turn, that means reallocating state funds to TOPS awards and away from LSU.

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With a lack of local high school graduates to attend the University of Maine (UMaine), the institution has had to get creative. This fall, the university began offering qualified students from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New England the chance to attend the flagship institution for the same cost as attending the flagship school in their home state. UMaine saw 2,000 more applications for this fall than last year, with about 250 more freshmen from out of state.

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An enrollment drop of 2,200 students this fall at the University of Missouri has been a major factor in the school's shortfall of about $25 million. Three dorms have shut down, 38 staff members have been laid off, and a hiring freeze is in effect. However, the institution did receive $8 million for freezing in-state tuition.


Faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) have made clear their objections to recent, severe budget cuts. According to UW-Madison Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf, 144 professors told the university they were looking at other positions and asked for counteroffers, marking a nearly 40% increase from the year before. Most professors stayed, but UW-Madison was forced to invest $23.6 million in raises and support for research. Meanwhile, at least 34 faculty have left the institution in the last year (Brown, New York Times, 11/3). 

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