The Chronicle of Higher Education Commentary: Free the Public Universities

By Ronald J. Daniels

Over the last decade, the fate of America’s public universities has commanded considerable attention. The principal concern has been the impact that steadily declining levels of state support for higher education has had on tuition levels, enrollment patterns, and program offerings and priorities.

Since 2000, public universities have lost 25 percent of their state funding per student. The University of California at Berkeley, one of the leading public research universities in the nation, now receives only about 13 percent of its budget from state appropriations, compared with about 50 percent a few decades ago. This shift from public to private funding support has led many to conclude that we are witnessing nothing less than the privatization of the public research university.

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