As signs of a tentative economic rebound hearten students and parents in states such as North Dakota and Arkansas, continuing high unemployment and state budget crises could lead to funding cuts to public colleges and universities in Nevada, Louisiana, Illinois, and many other states. Unless officials in troubled states find new tax dollars to support their colleges, administrators will have little choice but to impose hefty tuition increases or reduce the number of classes and services offered on campus.
To help parents and students understand what they can expect from public colleges around the country, U.S.News & World Report has combined data on the economic and budgetary strength of each state with funding for each state's public university system to show which state systems will likely face budget pressure in the coming 18 months.
Of course, improvements to the economy would lessen the odds of budget cuts. And state officials, college administrators, and taxpayers can choose to resist pressure to make cuts. This numerical index does not take into account political decisions. Arizona, for example, suffers from a troubled economy and a severe state budget shortfall. But voters there recently agreed to a temporary 1 cent sales tax surcharge to forestall further education cuts. Likewise, the numbers indicate Maryland will likely deal with some economic and budget troubles in 2011. But the leaders in that state have so far shielded public colleges from the deep budget cuts and painful tuition increases that leaders in other states, such as California and Nevada, have imposed on their public colleges.
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