Since the 1950s, financial support for higher education has been a cycle of ups and downs. But that pattern, while aggravating in its inconsistency, appears to have settled into a protracted period of declining public support. Beginning with the recession that occurred in the spring of 2001 and accelerating after the terrorist attacks later that year, steep and sudden declines in tax revenues and stock values resulted in budget cuts for higher education that were both unexpected and unusually deep. The funding crisis thus precipitated, viewed from a perspective of four years later, marks a major shift in the financing of higher education, not just another downturn that will necessarily pass when the economy picks up or the government changes. In her plenary address to the ADE Summer Seminar East in 2004, published in this issue of the Bulletin, Annette Kolodny reported that her informal survey of presidents and provosts “always named the current financial crisis as their number one priority and biggest headache.” Data about budgets, enrollments, and faculty salaries suggest that these recent retrenchments are more extreme than in previous cycles and extend a pattern of declining state support. With less public funding, institutions must seek new sources of funding that in turn bring new agendas into our institutions. These changes in financing are reshaping higher education at almost every level—not just budget and tuition, but also faculty, curriculum, access, management, workload, teaching, and research. The difficulties produced by these internal pressures, moreover, are being reinforced by a probing new scrutiny from outside the academy. Provoked by the double bind of declining educational revenues and rising costs and by new questions about access and quality, external pressures for change in higher education have come with increasing intensity from taxpayers, corporations, and state and federal governments.
Pratt, Linda Ray, Paul Armstrong, Frederick De Naples, J. Lawrence Mitchell, Wendy Moffat, and John Stevenson. "Report of the ADE Ad Hoc Committee on Changes in the Structure and Financing of Higher Education." ADE Bulletin 137 (2005): 89-102. https://www.ade.mla.org/bulletin/article/ade.137.89