Last week, we used Jacksonville State’s upcoming 3.92 percent tuition increase as an example of the toxic mixture of widespread budget cuts in Montgomery and trustees who pass those fiscal losses on to students. It’s not JSU’s fault; it’s the way the game is played.
Now we’re disheartened to see more of the same coming at the state’s two-year colleges. A Star story last Friday highlighted the plight of Alabama’s community colleges: Enrollment is down because, in part, the economy has improved and some people have stopped taking classes; meanwhile, state community colleges will see their budgets decrease by 2.42 percent in the next school year. And tuition? It’s going up by nearly 2 percent.
Rising higher-ed tuition in Alabama is a multifaceted problem that’s not easily solved. There’s no denying that universities are getting less state money; there was a 27 percent funding drop between 2008 and 2010. Plus, the state Constitution allows for trustee boards to set tuition — which, in effect, gives them the ability to do whatever they please. Neither students nor state government can stop them.
Our point in this wide-ranging discussion hasn’t changed. As long as the state Legislature and the governor refuse to seek additional revenue for the state, Alabama’s college students will suffer. How can we expect these aspiring doctors, lawyers, teachers and the like to keep paying more and more each year?
We can’t. Call this what it is: A national epidemic that’s firmly entrenched in Alabama.