The federal government has stepped in to help students from the lowest-income families, adding $17 billion to the Pell grant program.
America’s public colleges and universities have burned through nearly $10 billion in government stimulus money and are still facing more tuition hikes, fewer course offerings and larger class sizes.
Many college students are already bearing the brunt of the cuts in their wallets as they prepare for their future careers.
“This next academic year is going to be the hardest one on record” for cash-strapped colleges, said Dan Hurley, director of state relations for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.
Hurley said the higher education system has entered a phase in which cuts will begin to affect academics.
Public university systems used the stimulus to prevent deeper layoffs, maintain degree programs and keep campuses open and are now bracing for the end of the federal program.
The effects will be greater in some states than others.
Since 2009, Colorado has used more than $600 million in stimulus money for higher education, accounting for more than a quarter of the higher education budget over that period.
Stimulus money covered 35 percent of South Carolina’s higher education budget in 2009 but less than 2 percent last year, according to a report by the New America Foundation.