As college affordability becomes an increasingly central policy issue for presidential candidates, a new report, State Higher Education Funding Cuts Have Pushed Costs to Students, Worsened Inequality, reveals the extent to which massive budget cuts have led to rising costs that have largely been passed to students through tuition increases. The report finds that higher education funding is down $6.6 billion from before the Great Recession, while tuition at four-year public colleges has risen by 37 percent. In Florida, published tuition is up more than 60 percent.
Systemic underfunding is a driving force for academic protest and organizing as more and more colleges and universities increasingly rely on lower-paid part-time and contingent faculty to shore up budget shortfalls. Adjunct professors across the country are rapidly organizing unions in response. This week, adjunct professors at St. Petersburg College became the seventh group to form their union in Florida in the past three years as part of a growing push for increased investment in the state’s colleges and universities.
Below is a statement from Angela Edwards-Luckett, a Faculty Forward member and adjunct professor of world religions at St. Petersburg College:
“Whether you’re a student, an educator, or a college administrator, we’re all hurt by the chronic underfunding of our education system. As an adjunct professor, I’ve personally witnessed how budget cuts are forcing my students to rely on food banks and my colleagues to scrape by on poverty pay.
“Investing in our higher education system is an issue of fairness, for both students and educators. In a country as rich as ours, everyone – regardless of if your parents are rich or poor, Black, brown or white – should have an opportunity to learn without being trapped in mountains of debt and teaching shouldn’t mean living in poverty.”