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Nov. 3, 2011

For further information contact Kevin Kodish at 800-932-0587, ext. 3020

HARRISBURG – At today’s Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, faculty members from Millersville University, East Stroudsburg University and Indiana University of Pennsylvania emphasized the vital role that the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) plays in the state and called for continued investment in the system’s 14 universities.

“State System schools provide access to a quality education for the middle and working class families of the Commonwealth,” said Dr. Chuck Ward of Millersville University. “We are committed to providing the kind of educational experience that can prepare our students to become not just productive workers in the state, but leaders.”

Almost 90 percent of PASSHE students are state residents, and 80 percent of alumni stay in Pennsylvania after graduation.

“Our high retention rates are a testament to our effectiveness in providing quality education to our students. Students come to our institutions because of our reputation of offering faculty mentorship, individualized attention, and research opportunities,” said Dr. Francisco Alarcon of Indiana University of Pennsylvania. “Unfortunately, the fiscal challenges of recent years have hindered our ability to serve students in these ways.”

This year’s budget cut funding for the State System by more than $90 million. In response, the system’s Board of Governors increased tuition by 7.5 percent – the largest increase since 2003. However, the tuition increase was not enough to fill the $111 million gap.

In September, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) conducted a survey of its members, and of those who responded, more than 95 percent reported they had experienced the impact of state budget cuts on their campus. Eighty-two percent of respondents reported they were seeing larger class sizes, and 62 percent responded that they saw fewer courses or sections offered this fall.

“Because of the decline in state appropriations, our institutions are forced to offer fewer sections and our students will take longer to graduate,” said Dr. Margaret Ball of East Stroudsburg University. “One of the attractions of attending a PASSHE university is the opportunity for student- teacher contact. Larger class sizes means that faculty have less time spent with students.”

With the recent focus on jobs and on student debt, APSCUF is advocating increased investments in public higher education. According to the state Department of Labor and Industry, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate for those with a high school diploma was 9 percent in the second quarter of 2011. The rate for those with a bachelor’s degree or more was 4.5 percent.

In addition, the State System remains the best value for a Pennsylvania resident seeking a four-year degree, with annual tuition and fees running about $8,500, which is close to the national average and about $600 less than the regional average.

On Oct. 6, the Board of Governors approved a budget request for 2.1 percent, or $8.6 million, more than last year’s appropriation. This will result in a budget gap of about $23 million, which will mean another tuition hike, additional cuts or likely both.

“We recognize that these are tough budget times,” said Dr. Steve Hicks, state APSCUF president. “However, in this challenging economic climate, we need to invest more in public higher education, not less, and a 2.1 percent increase doesn’t get us back to where we were. We remain committed to the PASSHE mission to provide an affordable, high quality education to the citizens of Pennsylvania.”

The Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Sen. Jake Corman, previously held hearings at the four state-related institutions: Pennsylvania State University, the University of Pittsburgh, Temple University and Lincoln University. Today’s hearing at Millersville also included testimony from students, university presidents and Chancellor John Cavanaugh.