College Costs: A National Dialogue

Budgeting is about values. Higher education is but one of many allocational rivals seeking state budget support. Rivals include K-12 education, corrections, health, welfare, highway construction and maintenance, government services, and state payments to Medicaid, among others.

There are substantial differences among the states as to the role higher education plays in overall plans for state economic development and quality of life issues. Among the many factors that affect a state’s role, five key ones emerge:

(a) the relative in-migration or outmigration of college-educated talent;
(b) the economic base of the state and the relative perceived need for a college-educated labor force;
(c) the cultural values of the state and the historic emphasis on education generally and higher education in particular;
(d) the structure of higher education in the state, including the relative role of private institutions, the configuration of state- supported institutions (two-year, four-year, research), and the degree of coordination within the state; and
(e) the relative wealth and tax capacity of the state.

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