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Despite students and faculty at the 14 universities of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) leaving campus for the fall 2011 semester, Governor Tom Corbett may announce a mid-year budget “adjustment” tomorrow that could have serious consequences for those coming back or entering the spring 2012 semester.

Flashback to this summer: Gov. Tom Corbett signs into law a state budget that cut funding for PASSHE by 18 percent, or more than $90 million. The system’s Board of Governors approves a 7.5 percent tuition hike – the largest increase since 2003. In the fall, faculty and students return to campus and confront larger class sizes and fewer course offerings. Since then, state revenue collections have lagged behind projections. Through November, collections are about 3.6 percent, or around $350 million, below estimate. In December, the governor traditionally holds a mid-year budget briefing and, if state coffers are running low, provides a plan for finishing the fiscal year in the black. Past administrations in similar financial straits have implemented a budget freeze and withheld appropriated funds to agencies under the governor’s jurisdiction.

PA Gov. Tom Corbett in a KayakGov. Tom Corbett will offer his mid-year budget briefing tomorrow morning at the Governor’s Residence with select legislators and staff.  Sources predict that the Corbett Administration will get out the budget hatchet again and freeze appropriations from the current budget to address both the present shortfall and projections.

What would this mean for the State System? We have no idea at this point. A mid-year tuition hike, fewer temporary faculty hired for the spring, continued cuts to programs and services… all of these could be in store for spring 2012.

Some important things to keep in mind: one is that the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center suspects the Corbett folks may have gotten creative with their budget projections and overestimated expected collections for the first part of the fiscal year. They point out that while collections are below estimates, they are still running ahead of last year’s figures. Second, remember that the state finished last year with a surplus nearing $800 million and only budgeted to spend about $200 million of that in this year’s budget. All of which might lead one to conclude a freeze might not even be necessary to keep the budget balanced.

Please check back for updates tomorrow and later this week. And one more thing… you may have noticed at the bottom of each APSCUF blog post there are “Share this” links that let you email, Tweet or post to Facebook. Today, we are asking you to forward this blog post to five colleagues that you can count on to take action. We may be asking for your help in the days ahead.

UPDATE: From our GR guru, Laura Saccente: There are no details as of Tuesday on the budget cuts. Budget Secretary Charles Zogby says Governor Tom Corbett will announce detailed cuts by the end of the year. Stated that there will unlikely be “across the board” cuts, but looking specifically into programs. Everything is on the table. Zogby announced $500M+ in red by end of year. In short, stay tuned… and thank you to everyone who is sharing this information via social media!

Here are some clips from the governor’s mid-year budget briefing:

Pennsylvania budget cutting may get painful, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Dec. 21, 2011

Pa. budget secretary says state already a half-billion short this fiscal year, Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 21, 2011

$500 million shortfall in Pa. 2011 revenues anticipated, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dec. 21, 2011

Corbett plans to limit capital projects in budget-tightening effort, Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice, Dec. 21, 2011

LATE UPDATE: On Jan. 4, the Corbett administration released the list of budget freeze amounts by agency. As part of $160 million in total cuts, Corbett has requested the State System freeze about 5 percent of this fiscal year’s appropriation — or about $20.6 million. The state-related universities are also receiving a 5 percent freeze. These funds are being placed into a reserve fund. Via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: