For the first time in at least 35 years, Massachusetts is spending more on prisons and jails than on public higher education, the Boston Globe says. Quoting from a report of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, the Globe says this year’s state budget included $816 million for campuses and student financial aid, and $830 million for prisons and jails.
“You don’t see the same cuts in corrections because there’s nobody to shift the cost onto. In higher education, it’s been students and parents who’ve been the shock absorbers,” said Cameron Huff of the foundation. Deep cuts to state spending on higher education have left the system of state colleges and universities in “profound” disarray, the report said.
Spending on higher education dropped from 6.5 percent of the state budget at its peak in 1988 to less than 3.5 percent for the 2004 fiscal year. Spending on prisons grew an average of 8.4 percent per year from 1992 to 2001. The report said overcrowding is an ongoing problem, with prisons and jails operating at 138 percent of capacity in the first quarter of 2003.