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Public Colleges in 26 States Report Cutting Budgets

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Public colleges and universities in more than half the states report that they have had to make mid-year budget cuts during the current academic year, according to a new survey by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

And, the survey found, future reductions loom at a time many schools are in the midst of ambitious capital-, academic-, and access-improvement programs.

"Almost every region of the country has a severe crisis," said Richard Novak, aascu's director of state policy and finance.

"These cuts spell long-term problems for state higher education," he said. "We're going to see an increasing privatization of public higher education as families bear more and more of the cost of a college education."

Schools in 26 states reported mid-year cuts, Mr. Novak said, and they are bracing for further fiscal restraints over the next academic year.

Massachusetts, he said, is in the worst shape. Public-school students there have been forced to absorb dramatic tuition increases, and Gov. William F. Weld, a Republican, recently proposed cutting the higher-education budget for the 1992 fiscal year by $115 million.

Among other proposals, Mr. Weld recommended that five campuses be closed, that some scholarships be8changed to loans, and that tuition be varied according to a student's family income. The legislature is considering the proposals.

Other States Hit, Too

Other particularly hard-hit states are California, Virginia, Maryland, and Connecticut, Mr. Novak said.

When state higher-education budgets get trimmed, he said, the first programs to go are often those designed to improve quality, including special faculty chairs, competitive grants, and access initiatives.

Then come increases in tuition and reductions in financial aid, he said.

For example, in New York, the City University and the State University systems increased their tuel15litions at mid-year by $200 and $300, respectively.

In California, where tuition is technically free but students pay an equivalent amount in fees, Gov. Pete Wilson, a Republican, and some higher-education officials are backing a 40 percent increase in fees for the 1992 fiscal year.

Financial aid in some states has been reduced by up to 15 percent, Mr. Novak said.

Later this year, the association plans to update its survey to project the fiscal outlook for the next fiscal year.

That outlook, Mr. Novak said, will depend almost entirely on the economy. "It's a big question mark," he said.

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