Mounting Peril for Public Higher Education During the Coronavirus Pandemic
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The coronavirus pandemic has led to the most difficult semester in generations on college campuses across the United States. With that semester now wrapping up, public colleges and universities are facing costs that already dwarf the $7.6 billion in federal stimulus funds that are on their way to these institutions.1 Absent dramatic new action from Congress, many of the public colleges that support social mobility will confront an existential threat. This report argues that colleges that are too reliant on tuition in place of public funding will no longer resemble public higher education as we know it. Public institutions never fully recovered from heavy cuts to their budgets in the wake of the Great Recession. As a result, the U.S. higher education system is vulnerable to a potentially much deeper economic crisis.11 Without significant federal help, state disinvestment in higher education could become the norm in the years to come.