Only 13 states have promised more taxpayer money for public higher education than Alabama for this fiscal year.
The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association's (SHEEO) Grapevine Report lists Alabama as 14th in initially approved tax appropriations for higher education for fiscal year (FY) 2023.
The data used for FY 2023 comes from initial allocations and estimates reported by the states from October 2022 to January 2023. Since FY 2023 typically doesn't end until June 30, these estimations are subject to change as states correct and adjust their budgets.
According to the report, Alabama has appropriated approximately $2.12 billion in tax dollars for the state's public higher education institutions. This is almost a $129 million increase from FY 2022, when the state allocated roughly $2 billion.
In recent years, public universities have become ideological battlegrounds, spurring Republicans in some red states to take action.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is currently in the process of instituting widespread reforms in universities funded by Florida taxpayers, prohibiting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) policies, which have been accused of being discriminatory against conservative faculty and students and critical race theory. DeSantis is also pushing to alter the core curriculum of public Florida universities to align with "the values of liberty and the Western tradition."
The Alabama Republican Party (ALGOP) recently passed a resolution to ban DEI programs and policies in state-funded agencies and universities.
State Rep. Ed Oliver (R-Dadeville) proposed a related bill in the Alabama House of Representatives last month. If passed, it would ban all public education institutions from "promoting or endorsing, or requiring affirmation of certain divisive concepts related to race, sex or religion."
However, the executive director of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education (ACHE), Jim Purcell, is opposed to both policies.
On Friday, Purcell argued that the policies were incongruent with the GOP's push for free speech on college campuses, despite admitting that the bill does not prohibit an institution from teaching or discussing the concepts as long as it does not endorse or expect students and faculty to assent to them expressly.
Alabama is home to 38 public colleges and universities. This includes everything from public four-year universities like the University of Alabama (UA) and Auburn University to two-year community colleges like Southern Union in Opelika.
Both UA and Auburn have official DEI offices. Both also have controversial "studies" programs like gender, race and women's studies. One women's studies course at UA forced students to purchase a textbook for $95 that consists exclusively of links to content that is otherwise freely available.
The content advocated for third-wave feminism, abortion, radical subjectivism, raising "androgynous children" free of "gendered norms," sexual promiscuity, "queering society" and "learning from drag queens."
Most of the state's funding has been allocated to operations at four-year public institutions, totaling just over $1 billion. Over $492 million was allocated for two-year operations, and over $397 million was categorized under "research, agriculture, medical." Nearly $95 million was allocated toward state financial aid and just over $59 million fell under "other use."
Nationally, the total initially approved state funding for higher education reached $112.3 billion, a 6.6% increase from FY 2022 and a 27.5% increase over the past five years.
However, some states funded higher education using sources other than tax appropriations, such as emergency education relief funds and CARES Act funds. Nevertheless, national state tax support totaled roughly $105 billion.
Public higher education institutions also received $1.2 billion in federal stimulus funding.
Like several other states, Alabama's state support was exclusively derived from tax appropriations. Alabama higher education institutions also have yet to be promised federal stimulus funds for FY 2023.
The states that allocated the most taxpayer dollars to public higher ed include California, Texas, New York, Illinois and North Carolina. Some states, such as Vermont, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, allocated comparatively little.
SHEEO's Grapevine report has been issued every year since 1961. It is a collaborative effort between SHEEO and Illinois State University's Center for the Study of Education Policy.
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