13 Jul, 2020
Why Regional Public Universities Are Vulnerable During Recessions and Must Be Protected
Third Way
Orphan, Cecilia M.
From the Document: "Missouri Western State University (MWSU), a Regional Public University (RPU) in Saint Joseph, Missouri, recently announced layoffs of 31 instructors and the elimination of dozens of academic majors. [...] While MWSU had already been bracing for cuts due to a $3 million budget deficit, the state legislature's decision to cut $1.9 million from this year's appropriations due to COVID-19 [coronavirus disease 2019] made the situation far more dire. Like many RPUs, MWSU has a mission of providing college access and enrolls a large number of low-income and first-generation college students who will be disproportionately affected by these cuts. And like many RPUs, MWSU's financial precarity predated COVID-19 and was caused by past recessionary cuts and declining enrollments. Recent reports indicate that RPUs in states as diverse as California, Colorado, Georgia, Louisiana, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Wisconsin are facing similar budget challenges as a result of COVID-19, with predictions that many more states will join their ranks. While the current crisis is still unfolding and many unknowns remain about the ultimate impacts on state and campus budgets, we can look to prior financial crises to predict what the future might hold for RPUs. This brief shares findings from a case study examining how recessionary budget cuts affected the 'anchor institution' mission of four RPUs and offers federal policy recommendations to ensure the financial solvency of RPUs through the current crisis and in the years to come."

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