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National Spending: Prisons vs. Universities

A new report from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences indicates that eleven states are spending more on prisons and jails than on their public colleges and universities.  As reported by CNNMoney, these eleven states are Michigan, Oregon, Arizona, Vermont, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Delaware, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut. 

Many states have been slashing spending for higher education over the past decade, with cuts deepening during the Great Recession and its immediate aftermath.  Nationally, state budgets for public universities have been cut by approximately twenty percent since two thousand and eight.  By contrast, funding for prisons is up by one hundred and forty one percent since nineteen eighty six. 

While it is true that state funding isn’t the only source of revenue for public universities, it still accounts for roughly half of a typical school’s budget.  The other half comes from tuition, fees, and the federal government.  In California, state funding only covers about nine percent of the University of California’s budget.  In two thousand and one, it covered twenty three percent.  Cuts in state funding have helped to push tuition higher in much of the nation.

Anirban Basu, Chariman Chief Executive Officer of Sage Policy Group (SPG), is one of the Mid-Atlantic region's leading economic consultants. Prior to founding SPG he was Chairman and CEO of Optimal Solutions Group, a company he co-founded and which continues to operate. Anirban has also served as Director of Applied Economics and Senior Economist for RESI, where he used his extensive knowledge of the Mid-Atlantic region to support numerous clients in their strategic decision-making processes. Clients have included the Maryland Department of Transportation, St. Paul Companies, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Players Committee and the Martin O'Malley mayoral campaign.