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New York. Michigan. California. Georgia. All across the country,there’s been a steady drumbeat of announcements detailing grim cutsto public higher education budgets at the state level. Classsections have been cut, buildings shuttered, instructors laid off.To prevent further catastrophe, many universities – notably thosein the California State University system, which has more than400,000 students – have had to hike fees and tuition, in some casesby more than 30 percent.

Throughout March, students and educators were protesting thesecuts on campuses or at their state capitals in an effort to raisepublic awareness. While some state legislatures began to cast aboutfor ways to restore some educational funding (hopefully withouthaving to raise taxes), the slow pace of economic recovery meansthat many schools will probably have to go without for the timebeing.

Here are some of the effects cuts are having around thecountry:

Support staff layoffs: In a bid to save academic programs fromcuts for as long as possible, some colleges are slashing supportstaff positions, such as receptionists, computer supporttechnicians, custodial staff and counselors. The University ofCalifornia at Davis, for instance, cut dedicated departmental ITsupport staff in favor of creating a smaller centralized supportteam that serves all departments.

Class sections cut: City College of San Francisco is one schoolthat pared back academic offerings to stay afloat. The school, withabout 100,000 students, cut 625 class sections in recent years.This is especially unfortunate during a recession. Historically,college enrollments grow during times of economic hardship, aspeople try to refresh their professional skill sets or train fornew career opportunities. The Sloan Consortium’s yearly survey ofhigher education professionals, for instance, found mostuniversities reported increased demand for existing courses and newcourses.

Scaling back the number of meeting times for a course can have anegative impact on students. They’re more likely to encounterconflicts of schedule when signing up for required courses. Thiscan cause students to have to stay in school for an extra semester,dragging out the amount of time it takes to complete their degree.Or it can impact their ability to maintain full- or part-timestudent status — often a requirement for receiving certain typesof financial aid.

Cuts to grants and scholarships: When their funding is cut, manyuniversities find they have to suspend, downsize or eliminateinstitutionally-supported student scholarships and grants. Andstate aid can dry up, as well. In Michigan, students lost thechance to supplement their financial aid packages with the MichiganPromise Scholarship, which was eliminated by the state legislaturefor 2009-2010. In New Jersey, proposed budget cuts of $173 millionthreaten Tuition Aid Grants for incoming freshmen, as well as othergrant programs.

The online alternative

If you’re frustrated by cuts to your local university’s courseofferings, you may be able to find an online college degreeprogram. No institution is completely immune to hard times, butmany land-based campuses are struggling to deal with the falloutfrom the recession while online education outlets continue to grow.”Learning On Demand,” The Sloan Consortium’s yearly survey oftrends in online higher education, found that online enrollmentsrose by 17 percent from 2007-2008 to 2008-2009, far outpacing theoverall higher education enrollment growth of 1.2 percent. In fact,more than 25 percent of college students took at least one online course during the 2008-2009school year.

Prospective students whose motivation for attending college iscareer-focused may especially benefit from online learning’s uniquely flexible format. While onlinestudents still need to work hard to earn their degrees, they canfit their weekly study time around other commitments, allowing themto work or care for family members while they learn.

This article is presented by AIU Online, the online educationoutlet of American InterContinental University. Find out more aboutAIU’s career-focused online degree programs by (AIU does not guarantee employment or salary.Financial aid is available to those who qualify.)

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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