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Higher education in a ‘death spiral,’ says Education professor

by Jarad Jarmon / Mar 30, 2016

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

As the state funding issue in Illinois becomes more worrisome, Christopher Higgins, an associate professor in the Department of Education Policy, Organization & Leadership, said higher education nationwide is in a “death spiral.”

Lecturing at Eastern Illinois University based on his study of state-funded higher education institutions, Higgins explained a closed repeating loop of negative events is occurring and solidifying into a repeating process that is making negative impacts on higher education.

Higgins argued beyond the most obvious effects of a lack of state funding to higher education like layoffs and budget cuts, fundamental perceptions of what college is for are negatively changing and education, in general, is becoming a class-based service.

While his loop of negative events or “death spiral” as he described it did not start at one particular point, he said it could start with state funding to higher education.

Starting from that point in Higgin’s loop, the lack of state funding has led to financial pressure to increase tuition. According to his loop, poor state funding also forces universities to focus on marketability for tuition dollars.

This looping series of events causes a perpetual decline in public higher education, he said. Higgins argued that this would, aside from other impacts, create a two-tier system eventually where poor students can only go to community colleges and rich students can go to universities.

Higgins said he believes if the state did take this into account and funded higher education more, the cycle might change for the better. He was doubtful it would happen, now, at least, because of several other state issues like pensions soaking up focus for solutions.

Read the full article from the Journal Gazette & Times Courier.