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Report Sounds Alarm on Fallout from Cutting Higher-Ed Budgets


Monday, November 23, 2020   

INDIANAPOLIS -- In the wake of the pandemic, a new report said states should avoid making deep cuts to higher education.

Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation urge states not to slash education budgets across the board because of COVID-19, especially because of the disproportionate effect this will have on Black, Hispanic, Native American and low-income students.

Tom Harnisch, vice president for government relations for the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association said the report sounds an alarm on cuts that could ripple through the decade.

"Higher education going into 2021 is really looking at a financial toxic brew, both at the institutional level and at the state-funding level," Harnisch warned.

The report noted Indiana made a 7% cut to higher education but applauds the state for protecting Next Level Jobs, a workforce training program. Report authors said states should invest in programs of that type that prepare students for employment.

Gabriella Gomez, deputy director of U.S. policy, advocacy and communications for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said states slashed higher ed budgets during the last recession and rolled back gains of the past. She said states need to link education to the needs of their economy.

"Let's not repeat the mistakes of the past," Gomez urged. "Let's actually take what we know from the past and apply it in this context right now."

The report also suggested institutions consider the large costs to deliver education, and that policymakers protect and expand need-based financial aid.

Harnisch believes there's only so much states can do on their own.

"An overarching point here is that we really need the federal government to step in and provide a robust relief package to institutions of higher education and aid to state and local governments," Harnisch contended.

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.

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