Hmm, it seems like there could be a way for the universities to avoid the boom-bust cycle of energy:
Nationwide, things are looking up — or at least stable — for institutions dependent on state funding, which is up for the fourth year in a row. But at some universities, morale is looking more like it did in the midst of recession-era spending cuts.
Thanks to a boom in energy production several years ago, states such as Alaska, North Dakota, and Wyoming were among the leaders in post-recession higher-education spending, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Now, with energy prices down, looking at the mood on some of those campuses is like looking into a time machine for the rest of the nation, where many states have turned the money faucet back on for higher education. ...
More than 900 jobs have been eliminated from the University of Alaska system in two years, according to state figures. At the University of Wyoming, where Professor Scott R. Shaw said it’s "the darkest mood in years and perhaps since the Great Depression," the number of job cuts exceeded 300 and could surpass 400. And in North Dakota, where the development of the Bakken Shale helped establish the state as one of the most financially stable in the nation, 500 jobs were eliminated along with 6.5 percent of state support in the last budget.
But as those states scramble to balance budgets, many university leaders are pushing programs they believe could help lift their states out of the boom-and-bust cycles synonymous with energy economies. In some cases, states are holding onto nine-figure campus projects despite hemorrhaging money, programs, and positions. ...
State support to the University of Alaska system dropped from $375 million to $325 million in two years, Mr. Johnsen said, and the loss of over 900 university jobs is significant in a state with a labor force of about 360,000 people.
The numbers don’t tell the full story, Mr. Jeffries said. Speaking about the Anchorage campus, he said the recent cuts have damaged morale and cited a faculty survey that found that 41 percent of respondents were actively seeking work elsewhere.
I don't think the answer is capital infrastructure and academic programs. If you have a boom-bust economy, it seems to make sense to save money in the boom years and spend those savings down in the bust years. But, politicians (and academics and households) don't always think like that.