There was a glimmer of hope this week for colleges struggling to adjust to prolonged public funding cuts.
State financial support for higher education nationwide declined just 0.4 percent from fiscal 2012 to fiscal 2013, according to the Grapevine survey released Monday by the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University and the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO).
The previous year, average state cuts were 7.6 percent, which translated into $6 billion less for salaries, course offerings, and other operating expenses. Compared to five years ago, total fiscal support for public higher education is 10.8 percent lower on average in states.
"Barring a further downturn in the economy, the relatively small overall change from FY12 to FY13 suggests that higher education may be at the beginning stages of a climb out of the fiscal trough caused by the last recession," a statement from SHEEO said. "But full recovery to prerecession levels of state support is likely to be a long-term process."
The Grapevine survey provides a breakdown by states, showing the most dramatic cuts (more than 30 percent over the past five years) have been in Arizona, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Wyoming.
However, some states, such as Arkansas, Illinois,Indiana, Maryland, Montana, New York, and North Carolina, have actually had an increase in the amount of money invested in public colleges since 2007-08.
The intent of the Grapevine report, which includes both tax and nontax state support for the operation of institutions of higher education, is a tentative look at state higher education funding and is subject to change.