May 4, 2011

Looking More Closely at the Plan to Reverse Cuts to Higher Education

Carroll Andrew Morse

A Gina Macris story in today's Projo discusses funding for public higher education in the always-troubled Rhode Island state budget...

Governor Chafee’s budget would add a total of $10 million to higher education, stopping the decline in state support and sparing Community College of Rhode Island students tuition increases. But the system as a whole will still have to cut expenses, even with the tuition hikes at URI and RIC.
...and in a statement earlier this year, University of Rhode Island President David Dooley emphasized past cuts...
"As you all know (Tuesday) night was quite an occasion for higher education in Rhode Island,” Dooley said during a press conference called by the Governor at URI to discuss his plans to reverse years of heavy budget cuts to URI, Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island.
However, despite the references to state budget cuts or expense cuts, the overall public higher education system in Rhode Island hasn't experienced anything resembling heavy budget cuts in recent years.

1. Total expenses for "Public Higher Education" in Rhode Island are listed in this year's gubernatorial budget document...

Public Higher Education
Total Expenditures
FY 2009 Actual$842,410,188
FY 2010 Actual$901,551,465
FY 2011 Enacted$937,802,389
FY 2011 Revised$996,080,552
FY 2012 Recommended$994,958,261

I sense some budget gimmickry going on in the FY2011 and FY2012 numbers, with a budget being set up so that higher-education advocates can claim that they were flat-funded this year -- but not mentioning that the flat-funding year followed a 10.5% increase.

2. The $95 million dollar jump from FY2010 Actual to FY2011 Revised seems to include some Federal stimulus funding. Federal expenditures for public higher education are listed as...

Public Higher Education
Federal Funds
FY 2009 Actual$3,735,333
FY 2010 Actual$3,746,126
FY 2011 Enacted$15,004,667
FY 2011 Revised$32,657,457
FY 2012 Recommended$4,594,756

3. Though some of the stimulus funding might have gone towards capital costs, the portion of the RI public higher education budget classified as "operating expenditures" has not experienced any overall budget cuts, heavy or otherwise...

Public Higher Education
Operating Expenditures
FY 2009 Actual$777,838,168
FY 2010 Actual$838,415,178
FY 2011 Enacted$850,217,635
FY 2011 Revised$887,207,836
FY 2012 Recommended$926,649,575

To put this into perspective, if it is assumed that the $10 million dollar general revenue increase being proposed by Governor Chafee was taken purely away from "operating expenditures", then the public higher education budget would have to get by with "only" a 9% increase spread out over the last two years.

4. Finally, it is interesting to contrast the increase in public college and university operating costs with the "other funds" figure from the revenue-side of the report, which in the case of public institutions of higher education, is mostly tuition. The first column below is operating expenditures, the second column is revenue from "other funds"...

Public Higher Education
Operating Expenditures
Public Higher Education
Other Funds
FY 2009 Actual$777,838,168$667,142,742
FY 2010 Actual$838,415,178$735,958,261
FY 2011 Enacted$850,217,635$758,260,879
FY 2011 Revised$887,207,836$799,919,901
FY 2012 Recommended$926,649,575$816,021,529

From these numbers, it appears that tuition increases have been keeping approximate pace with operating cost increases, and have not been strongly determined by general revenue cuts.

The point is, as is the case in many areas of the Rhode Island budgets, that sources of growth in spending need to be identified and addressed at some point. Government funding of any program, no matter how worthwhile, cannot forever keep pace with faster-than-inflation growth in costs.

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"budget gimmickry" in RI?
Nah, I don't believe it. You must be one of those ray-zist demi-gogs.

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at May 4, 2011 6:48 PM

May 4, 1886 - Lest we forget.
Following is excerpted from the Encyclopedia Brittanica:

Haymarket Riot, also called Haymarket Affair or Haymarket Massacre, violent confrontation between police and labour protesters in Chicago on May 4, 1886, that became a symbol of the international struggle for workers’ rights. It has been associated with May Day (May 1) since its designation as International Workers’ Day by the Second International in 1889.
On May 3 one person was killed and several injured as police intervened to protect strikebreakers and intimidate strikers during a union action at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company that was part of a national campaign to secure an eight-hour workday. To protest police brutality, anarchist labour leaders called a mass meeting the next day in Haymarket Square. That gathering was pronounced peaceful by Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison, who attended as an observer. After Harrison and most of the demonstrators departed, a contingent of police arrived and demanded that the crowd disperse. At that point a bomb was thrown by an individual never positively identified, and police responded with random gunfire. Seven police officers were killed and 60 others wounded before the violence ended; civilian casualties have been estimated at four to eight dead and 30 to 40 injured.
The Haymarket Riot created widespread hysteria directed against immigrants and labour leaders. Amid the panic, August Spies and seven other anarchists were convicted of murder on the grounds that they had conspired with or aided an unknown assailant. Many of the so-called “Chicago Eight,” however, were not even present at the May 4 event, and their alleged involvement was never proved. Nevertheless, Spies and three other defendants were hanged on Nov. 11, 1887, while another defendant committed suicide.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at May 4, 2011 11:28 PM

Comparing other funds and expenditures, it sure looks like wringing out overhead plus consolidation and elimination of duplicate courses could help close the gap. RI doesn't appear to really want publicly funded higher education. I'd be surprised if belt-tightening couldn't replace the stingy state contribution if only the state let them go private.
There is a real bubble in higher education - a lot of degrees simply aren't worth the money. That money comes from non-dischargeable student loans that will saddle many naive kids with long term debt far into adulthood. That's a whole separate issue.

Posted by: chuckR at May 5, 2011 12:15 AM

Public higher education is swirling the same toilet bowl as K-12 is. The only solution is to sell these colleges in an auction. The money can be used as part of a fiscal renovation of the state.

This would be in the best interests of students. Only when colleges are forced to compete on the basis of value will they improve their product and cut their prices to affordable levels.

What we have in higher education today is exactly the same market-distortion dynamic that Chris Dodd and Barney Frank sponsored in the housing finance market.

Posted by: BobN at May 5, 2011 6:29 AM


If you're looking for a May 4 event of true historical proportions to celebrate, there's Margaret Thatcher's becoming Prime Minister of the UK on May 4, 1979, formally arresting the long decline into socialism that had been occurring in the West.

Though in terms of overall historical impact, it's hard to beat the drawing of the Papal Line of Demarcation in the New World on May 4, 1493.

Posted by: Andrew at May 5, 2011 7:17 PM

May 4 is also the day before Andrew combined inanity with stupidity and insipidity in an incredible stretch of non-sequiturs.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at May 5, 2011 9:13 PM

You don't see any irony in leaving that comment at all, do you?

Posted by: Andrew at May 5, 2011 9:22 PM

Lefty wouldn't recognize a non-sequitur if it hit him between the eyes. You can tell because he and his cronies spread non-sequiturs all over AR and believe they are persuading everyone.

Remember, they don't teach logic any more in the public schools. All that judgment is bad for self-esteem.

Posted by: BobN at May 6, 2011 6:57 AM

I see an avoidance of the suffering that unionization has gone through to get established, and an avoidance of the current demonization of the union movement. I see the irony as a means of avoiding serious comment.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at May 6, 2011 2:58 PM

Of course, Lefty has in these very pages drawn a moral equivalent between the "demonization" of Al Qaeda and the "demonization" of the government-employee unions. Shows you what kind of moral standards guide the Left.

To paraphrase Freud, sometimes a demon is just a demon.

Posted by: BobN at May 6, 2011 3:39 PM
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