That’s the question up for debate this fall as the state Senate holds hearings on the impact of the current budget on the state-related universities. On Wednesday, Sept. 7, Penn State president Graham Spanier warned lawmakers that additional cuts would necessitate much larger tuition hikes. Senate Appropriations chairman Jake Corman pointed out that funding for the state-related universities was $685 million in 2001 and has dropped to $559 million with the last budget. Two days after the hearing, Spanier detailed Penn State’s budget and appropriation request for next year. Penn State will be asking state legislators for a 5 percent increase, or about $15 million more than last year’s funding level. At that level, Spanier believes Penn State will be able to hold tuition increases to 3 or 4 percent.
On Monday, Sept. 12, the Senate Appropriations Committee moved to the University of Pittsburgh. Chancellor Mark Nordenberg emphasized the importance of state dollars to keeping tuition reasonable, particularly for in-state students; Pitt raised tuition 8.5 percent, or nearly $1,100, in July. The chancellor also rejected the idea of a higher education voucher system where the money would follow the student, saying that such a program would mean the end of affordable tuition for Pennsylvania students.
The committee will hold hearings at the other state-related institutions on the following dates:
- Temple – Wednesday, Oct. 12
- Lincoln – Thursday, Oct. 13
APSCUF is working with legislators to ensure the State System is not forgotten in this discussion about the state budget and public higher education. We hope a hearing at a PASSHE campus can be scheduled in the near future.
Obviously, the current state budget is having an impact on our classrooms and lecture halls already. We’re hearing reports about larger class sizes, sections that aren’t being offered in sufficient quantities and many other anecdotes that suggest our students are not getting the high-quality education they were promised. If you’re seeing the impact of state budget cuts on your campus, please visit our Facebook page to add your comments and make sure you complete our members survey.
The State System will release its budget plan and spending request at the Board of Governors meeting in early October. Clearly, we cannot sustain another year of double-digit budget cuts at our universities. We must continue the fight for funding to ensure our students receive a top-quality education at the most reasonable cost.