Public university costs outpace state funding

Amanda Garrett

Ohio’s new $51.2 billion two-year state budget will provide more money to public colleges and universities than expected, but the state’s funding of higher education still remains at levels of the 1990s.

The budget, signed into law by Gov. Bob Taft last Thursday, provides $1.56 billion for higher education in fiscal year 2006, increasing to $1.59 billion in fiscal year 2007. Kent State is slated to receive nearly $84 million for 2006, potentially increasing to $85.2 million for 2007. The new budget is similar to the funding the university received in 1998 when there were 3,400 fewer students enrolled, said David Creamer, vice president of administration.

“This budget looks better than we expected,” Creamer said, “but we are still receiving funding that is basically at a late ’90s level while our operating costs continue to rise.”

Creamer said the 2007 figure may vary depending upon how $30 million of the total is allocated.

When a state committee decides how the money will be distributed, the higher education budget will be revised, said Patricia Myers, Kent State’s director of government relations.

Myers said funding higher education in Ohio is difficult because the legislature is required by law to produce a balanced budget. Because of Ohio’s economic downturn, the legislature’s focus has been on tax reform and the rising costs of Medicaid, and funding for higher education has gotten pushed aside, Myers said.

“There haven’t been enough funds to adequately invest in higher education,” she said.

The budget also calls for a 70 cent increase in cigarette taxes, and it increases the tax on a gallon of gas from 26 cents to 28 cents.

State leaders used an unexpected $1.3 billion surplus to replenish the state’s “rainy day” fund and to help local governments pay for police and fire services.

Contact on-campus reporter Amanda Garrett at [email protected].