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Boom and Bust Cycles

Boom and Bust Cycles

America’s public colleges and universities — among the first to feel the effects of the cooling economy … ,” writes Black Issues correspondent Page Boinest Melton in her article “What’s Happening to the ‘Public’ in Public Education?” She goes on to say that nowadays how well our public education institutions are doing may be the most accurate measure of a state’s fiscal health (see page 26).
Too many times when state legislatures are looking to make cutbacks, they take it out of education’s hide. Many of our state public colleges and universities are obviously the most vulnerable in these situations since they depend on a certain amount of funding from the state. “When the economy heads south, higher education is usually the component of the budget that suffers the most,” said an education consultant quoted in the article.
I can only assume that although we hold education up to be the key to the American dream, we actually treat education like it’s disposable, or at best, near to the bottom on this country’s list of priorities.
In this Academic Kickoff edition of Black Issues In Higher Education, we’re focusing on money — from state budget cuts to college and universities’ fund-raising efforts.
We take a national look at how budget cuts are affecting higher education in Page Boinest Melton’s article, but we also take a more narrow view, looking at the states of Louisiana and Tennessee. And although there are problems unique to those two states, one could compare the attitudes toward education in Louisiana and Tennessee to the rest of the country’s. For example, Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster says it is a constant struggle to appropriate funds for education in Louisiana because it “doesn’t have that much of a constituency.” According to the Southern Regional Education Board, Louisiana ranks last in the South in state funding per full-time student (see page 36).
In Tennessee, Gov. Don Sundquist has battled with the state’s legislature for the last few years over his plan to increase taxes in efforts to better fund the state’s 24 public colleges and universities. And each year, writes BI correspondent David Hefner, the governor has come away “battered and bruised in crushing defeats,” with state schools forced to make due with “bare-bone appropriations” (see page 32).
Those are just two examples of what states go through — all in the name of appropriating funds for higher education.
Since money was the theme of this edition, we also thought it was important and relevant to talk about fund raising among colleges and universities. Relevant because increased fund-raising efforts, hopefully resulting in increased endowments, on behalf of higher education institutions will protect them somewhat from the budget cutting whims of state legislatures. Historically Black colleges and universities are increasingly becoming savvy about fund raising, realizing that they are going to have to spend money to make money to not only compete with each other, but with traditionally White institutions as well (see page 38).
Lastly, in the article “Unlikely Partners in Philanthropy,” senior writer Ronald Roach highlights Northern Virginia’s George Mason University (see page 46). GMU is known to house some of the most conservative scholars in the nation, however, the local minority business community has been working with the university to recruit minority students in efforts to provide mentorships, internships and raise money for scholarships. Other schools in addition to GMU, such as the University of Louisville, are realizing that the minority community is an untapped market for fund-raising revenue. And the goal, says Trisa Long Paschal, vice president for institutional advancement at Spelman College, is for Blacks to develop a tradition of philanthropy that extends to higher education, regardless of whether it’s the HBCU or the TWI doing the tapping. 

Hilary Hurd

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