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Report Proposes Another Way to Raise State Spending on Higher Education

With state spending on public colleges recovering slowly and tuition rates still rising, a policy-advocacy group has proposed creating a competitive federal grant program to give states incentives to increase spending on and reduce the cost of higher education.

The group, the Center for American Progress, on Tuesday released a report exploring the effects of what it called state disinvestment in public colleges and universities. In the report, the group proposed a program through which the federal government would match state funding for higher education if states agreed to carry out reforms that ensured students would have access to an affordable and high-quality education.

States participating in the program would commit to keeping tuition increases minimal and in line with the rate of inflation, according to a news release.

“College students have come to be viewed as a source of revenue to balance state budgets,” David A. Bergeron, vice president for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress, said in the release. “It is time to put investment in students at the front of the line for new investments.”

In order to be eligible for the proposed grants, states would be required to expand their outreach to elementary- and secondary-school students to get them on a path to college, develop a plan to ensure stable state support, take steps to improve student success, adjust state policies to increase the ease of transfer and admission, and raise high-school standards to better prepare students for college.

The report comes amid debates over the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Earlier this month, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities issued its own report recommending that new federal block grants be awarded to stimulate state spending on higher education based on a comparison of a state’s per-student appropriation and the maximum Pell Grant.

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