Governors Priorities For Higher Education : A 50 State Analysis

March 10th, 2013

Each year, incumbent governors throughout the country outline their public policy priorities in State the State addresses while newly-elected governors discuss their state plans in their inaugural addresses. These speeches promote recent accomplishments, discuss challenges confronting the state and articulate policy proposals aimed at advancing the governor’s agenda.
AASCU has analyzed the 50 speeches that have taken place since the beginning of 2013 to assess the extent to which policy priorities related to higher education have been integrated into the governors’ plans for the coming year. The analysis includes 49 states and the District of Columbia. The final state address will be given in Louisiana on April 8. Taken together, these addresses provide a current national portrait of state chief executives’ priorities involving higher education.
A summary of this year’s speeches suggests the following themes:

  • Higher education continues to play a vital role in state economic and workforce development strategies. Similar to last year, higher education was mentioned most frequently in the context of state economic and workforce development. In all regions of the country, including both party affiliations, governors discussed the role of colleges and universities in providing skilled workers to state-based industry, and partnering with businesses to facilitate job creation and economic growth. Related topics included an emphasis on STEM education and technology transfer. Of the 50 addresses, 31 tied higher education to economic and workforce development.
  • Restoring state investment in higher education and keeping college affordable are a focus. Growing state revenues have provided a number of governors with an opportunity to propose increased funding for higher education. A number of speeches expressed concern over higher tuition and student debt levels. Efforts to boost state funding were often matched with calls for implementing performance-based funding, restraint in tuition increases, and boosting campus efficiency.
  • A growing emphasis on college- and career-readiness. Several governors stressed the importance of having students ready for the rigors of college and the workforce, with a number of state leaders highlighting remediation rates for recent high school graduates. The number of governors who discussed this topic grew substantially from last year.
  • Emerging issues include online college programming and medical education. Several state chief executives have proposed state efforts to create additional online college opportunities geared toward working adults in an effort to spur degree completions and to meet state educational attainment goals. Governors also emphasized policy proposals to help alleviate the shortage of nurses and physicians to serve in high-need communities.

Topic areas from this year’s gubernatorial addresses are shown below, rank ordered according to their prevalence. A state-by-state accounting of higher education-related gubernatorial public policy proposals stemming from this year’s addresses is provided via the link below.
2013 State of the State Addresses and Higher EducationCompiled by:
Thomas L. Harnisch, Assistant Director of State Relations and Policy Analysis
Emily A. Parker, Senior Research and Policy Associate

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