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States “Penny-Wise and Pound-Foolish” According to Duncan

In a speech at the annual policy meeting of the State Higher Education Executive Officers, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan lambasted states for undermining their own economic growth through sweeping cuts to higher education.

“Disinvestment is not the strategy that other countries are choosing,” he said, pointing out that only four states have increased spending on higher education during the recession.

The result of these cuts has been the general increase of tuition costs, which is pricing huge segments of the population out of higher education.

“Higher education should not be a luxury for those who can afford it,” Duncan said.

Jamie Merisotis, president of the Lumina Foundation for Education, echoed Duncan’s sentiments and in fact extended the call for action to the federal government as well. He argued that there must be a national system for student financial ade which would coordinate the efforts of governments across the tiers as well as those of the colleges and universities themselves.

Ultimately, Merisotis said, the democratization of higher education is leading to a reduction in its value. This, he added, is up to the states to fix.

“The capacity for state policy development needs to grow,” Merisotis said. “The onus of responsibility will be on the states.”