When Gov. Tom Corbett signed the 2011-12 budget into law this summer, APSCUF expressed its concern that the 18 percent cut for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) would hurt educational quality for our students. At the time, this is what we said:
“The news coming out of the state legislature will devastate our universities…. Our students will likely pay higher tuition rates and at the same time, programs will be cut, class sizes will increase and faculty and staff will be laid off…. Further cuts will eventually be a drag on the economy. Repeated state cuts and low tuition have already led to fewer educational opportunities, cramped classes and faculty layoffs. State spending per student has declined over $2,000 in recent years, and university efficiency is at its maximum.”
Sure enough, what we predicted has come to pass. At the beginning of the semester, we heard anecdotal reports from several campuses, but we wanted a broader picture. That’s why in September we conducted a survey of faculty members and coaches asking them what they were experiencing at Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities. (Thank you to the more than 1,300 members who responded!) While the results are by no means scientific, we hope they will provide additional context during our conversations with lawmakers.
PA Budget Impact Survey Results
- Eighty-two percent of those who responded to the survey indicated they were dealing with larger class sizes. According to survey responses, at least 10 of the 14 state-owned schools now have classes with more than 100 students – this at a system that prides itself on the one-on-one attention students can receive.
- Sixty-two percent of respondents have seen fewer class sections offered. While it appears general education courses are being offered at an adequate level, upper-level courses are being cut. We all know what this means for students – more time to complete a degree.
- According to the survey, 59 percent of respondents have seen a reduction in educational personnel. Many respondents stated that more work is being pushed onto the faculty members and divided up amongst them. Another result – many professors recounted having to adapt their teaching style (more lectures and multiple-choice tests, less discussion, writing and critical thinking) to accommodate larger class sizes. Several schools were seeing laboratory time cut for general education science courses.
- About half of those who responded reporting seeing programs cut on their campus. This includes some graduate programs as well as many undergraduate programs at certain universities. Indiana University of Pennsylvania has seen 62 programs cut – some of which were generating revenue. The survey also showed that many programs and departments are merging together.
- Other interesting findings… 11 percent of respondents indicated that they were experiencing cuts in things like maintenance, supplies, printing, library and travel budgets. Members at most of the 14 universities reported seeing less investment in faculty and staff development and more temporary faculty hired, rather than tenure-track.
- Perhaps the most heartbreaking finding in the survey, respondents at 11 of our 14 universities reported knowing students that could not afford to return to campus this fall.
So what can we do about this – particularly since we’ve heard the Corbett administration wants continued budget cuts in years to come?
- First of all, we need to make our legislators aware of what’s happening on our campuses. On Nov. 3, the Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a public hearing at Millersville to discuss the impact of the budget on the state-owned universities. Over the next two weeks, we will share first-hand accounts from our members on the APSCUF Facebook page. We would encourage everyone to head over there and join the conversation. Got an anecdote to share? Post a video. Post a photo. Share your stories. We want to hear from you.
- Second, the week of the hearing we will be asking our members to contact their senators. Don’t know who your state senator or representative is? Punch in your zip code and find out. We’ll have more information in the upcoming days, but please take some time now to acquaint yourself with your elected officials.
- Lastly, we need your help to get the word out. “Like” our Facebook posts, share them with students, forward our blog posts to your colleagues. The state APSCUF leadership cannot do this alone – let’s stand together and make a case for continued investment in our state-owned universities.