It's getting to be late June in Harrisburg, which means a budget is about to be passed (let's act like the Pennsylvania Constitution's dictum that it be in place by July 1 is upheld again this year). I think we often get myopic about budgets -- the process in the Capitol is so intense that one forgets the big picture -- but this week's G8 Summit in Northern Ireland has highlighted the bigger issues in our budget.
President Obama is being hailed in Europe as an economic genius for keeping the American economy out of the doldrums that Europe is in -- with unemployment EU-wide now around 11 percent. The policy answer is that the Obama Administration avoided the "austerity" policies that have helped acerbate the recession in Europe, and the American people are reaping the (sparse) benefits while Europe continues (relative) suffering.
by Dan Hagan, APSCUF intern
On Wednesday, June 12, the House of Representatives voted on HB1437, the $28.3 billion state budget bill. The bill passed with a party-line vote of 108-92 and now goes to the Senate for consideration. The current budget bill provides flat funding to the State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) with an appropriation of $412.7 million.
Several universities in the State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) recently reviewed their weapons policies at the request of PASSHE’s central office. Kutztown University opted to lift an existing weapons ban and permit weapons in open areas on campus. Because faculty members and the press raised questions about Kutztown’s new policy, the PASSHE Board of Governors has asked that the other universities hold off on changing their weapons policies until a task force reviews the situation.
On Wednesday, May 15, the Senate Education Committee held a hearing on three bills that aim to expand access to affordable higher education for Pennsylvania students.
Senate Bill 78, sponsored by Senator Greenleaf (R-Bucks), expands state scholarship eligibility requirements for students regardless of the percentage of credit hours completed through online courses.
Senate Bill 420, sponsored by Senator Ward (R-Westmoreland), creates a debt relief program for middle-income students. The legislation would appropriate additional funds to PHEAA for a new student aid and debt reduction program for middle-income ($80,000-$110,000) students.
Senate Bill 713, the DREAM Act, sponsored by Senator Smucker (R-Lancaster), provides in-state tuition for undocumented students who graduated or received a GED from a Pennsylvania high school. Similar legislation has been passed in at least 12 other states.
APSCUF submitted written testimony to the committee on all three bills. More information about the hearing, including testimony from PASSHE and other presenters can be found on the committee’s website.
The Home Depot continues its long standing support of diverse communities with its Retool Your School program, now in its third year. Retool your school is a campus improvement grant program which provides grants to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) for campus upgrades.
Last year, with the help of faculty, coaches, and students from all fourteen PASSHE universities, Cheyney University earned enough votes to place 3rd in the competition an win a $10,000 Campus Pride grant.
APSCUF would like to encourage all campuses to support Cheyney again this year by voting at the Retool Your School site or at Cheyney's website. You may vote once per day until online voting ends on April 15. Thank you for your continued support of Cheyney University.
Last week, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (D.C.) released a grim report “Recent Deep State Higher Education Cuts May Harm Students and the Economy for Years to Come” that highlighted the impact of drastic cuts to higher education nationwide following the 2008-9 recession. According to the report, these cuts will have a negative impact on our nation’s long-term recovery.
One of the biggest attractors of businesses to a region is the quality and education of its workforce. Although tax rates, access to infrastructure, and low utility costs are important magnets for business investment, so is an educated workforce.
The other side of this economic development plan is that an educated workforce generates middle-class jobs that sustain an economic recovery. For instance, according to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, by 2018, 62 percent of all jobs will require some form of college education, up from 28 percent in 1973.
Today the PASSHE Board of Governors unanimously approved ratification of both tentative contract agreements with APSCUF faculty and coaches. It was a long, challenging negotiations process, but APSCUF and PASSHE reached agreements that were fair to faculty, coaches, and students.
Both negotiations teams and the negotiations committee appreciate the overwhelming support from faculty and coaches during the process and the strong showing of solidarity at the PASSHE Board of Governors meeting in January. Because of our collective efforts, we were able to settle contracts with the State System that preserve quality public higher education for our students.
*URGENT: Legislative Action Needed on Liquor Privatization*
House Bill 790, pushed by Governor Corbett and sponsored by Majority Leader Mike Turzai, passed out of Committee yesterday. HB 790 would privatize the liquor states and end the valuable asset that generates more than $500 million dollars a year for Pennsylvania. Privatizing would mean a loss of that revenue and the potential for public higher education appropriations to be affected with this budget gap. Privatizing also means a loss of 5,000 middle class jobs, many of them held by our union friends in the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776 (UFCW).
The plan will likely be voted upon on Thursday, possibly Wednesday, so we are asking our membership to act now!
Today faculty members belonging to the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) ratified a tentative contract agreement between APSCUF and the State System of Higher Education (PASSHE).
Over 95 percent of the faculty who voted supported the ratification. A simple majority vote was needed to ratify the contract.
“Faculty members at our universities are dedicated to providing students with a high quality education. The overwhelming support for this agreement illustrates the commitment our faculty have to our students and our institutions,” said Dr. Steve Hicks, president of APSCUF. “This is a balanced contract that preserves and maintains quality public higher education in the Commonwealth.”
On Monday, March 4, Peter Garland, Acting Chancellor of the State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), testified before the House Appropriations Committee about PASSHE’s budgetary needs. On Tuesday he offered similar testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee. While there was a wide range of topics discussed at the two hearings, many of the questions from legislators focused on how PASSHE was able to the meet the needs of the universities with a limited budget.
In early February, Governor Corbett announced that the state’s higher education institutions, including the state-related institutions, PASSHE universities, and community colleges, would receive flat funding in exchange for keeping tuition increases “as low as possible.” Flat funding this year still means that the State System has experienced a loss of $90 million since the governor took office.