In the April 14, 2017, edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education, Katherine Mangan provides an often overlooked solution to the challenges of state funding in higher education. Her article, Incentives to Attend Private Colleges Could Save States Money and Raise Graduation Rates details a number of significant financial advantages achieved by the state supporting students attending in-state private colleges. I worked extensively with such a program in the State of Texas and saw the benefits first-hand. Back in the early 1970’s, Representatives Dr. Lynn Nabers and Dr. Bob Hunter along with attorney and businessman Dr. Gary Price, authored legislation that created the Tuition Equalization Grant (TEG) program. Since that time, the program has helped hundreds of thousands of Texas students attend a private college of choice within the state. I am one of the many beneficiaries of their work.
The state is truly one of the beneficiaries of such a program. Depending on the level of the grant, it can cost the state budget coffers about one-half of what it costs to send a student to a four-year state college or university. Sure, there are church and state issues to navigate, but this is easily resolved with language eliminating those preparing for vocational ministry. There is also the flawed public perception to overcome, namely that private higher education educates only wealthy students. Just look at the percentage of Pell Grant recipients attending private colleges to debunk this myth.
So for all the state legislators out there looking to ameliorate a state budget plight, consider an investment in resident students who attend one of your private institutions. You will never hear lobbyists for the state colleges, or the general public for that matter, argue for such a program but you will benefit more students (future taxpayers) and maximize the state higher education budget as well.