Skip to main content

Scholars probe political factors influencing college funding

September 19, 2008

Setting funding levels for public universities is a major part of the state budget process, and deliberations over this often-contentious issue result in varying levels of appropriations from year to year and from state to state. These sometimes-inexplicable fluctuations in spending on higher education can complicate decision-making for state and institutional leaders, as well as potential university donors.

However, the recent work of four higher education scholars sheds new light on why appropriations can differ greatly according to geography and time. These experts will share their findings at “The Politics of State Funding for Higher Education,” a free public forum at the University of Wisconsin–Madison to be held from 9:15 a.m.-3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 23, at Room 4151 of Grainger Hall, 975 University Ave.

Looking at all 50 states and as far back as 50 years, presenters will discuss how state-level factors such as political context, higher education infrastructure, governance structure, the strength of political coalitions and the public identities of institutions can account for differences in state support — and what this means for higher education policy.

One scholar will address the political gridlock in Wisconsin, how it serves to advance special-interest groups while discouraging state and local groups from participating in policymaking, and the implications for higher education in the state.

Presentations include:

  • “Testing the Balance Wheel Hypothesis of State Spending for Higher Education,” Jennifer A. Delaney, assistant professor, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, UW–Madison; and William Doyle, assistant professor, Department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations, Vanderbilt University, 10 a.m.-noon.
  • “Governance, Politics and Identity in State Support for Higher Education,” David Weerts, assistant professor, Department of Educational Policy and Administration, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, 1-2 p.m.
  • “Hard Times Continue In America’s Laboratory for Democracy: Wisconsin Legislative Politics 1966, 2006 and 2000,” Jacob Stampen, professor emeritus, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, UW–Madison, 2:15-3:15 p.m.

This program is sponsored by the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE), a UW–Madison center that seeks to inform and improve postsecondary education policy, research and practice through the creation and exchange of knowledge.