Good morning, Chairman Pichini, Chancellor Brogan, Governors, University Presidents, and guests. My name is Kenneth Mash, and I am the President of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties. APSCUF represents the approximately 6,000 faculty and coaches employed at our 14 great public universities.
I want to emphasize the word “public” again. The universities that comprise this System are public universities. It has gotten harder and harder to remember that. As Secretary Hanger pointed out yesterday, over the course of the last two administrations our universities have struggled with declining resources.
When this system was founded, the Commonwealth paid for 2/3 of the cost of student’s education. Today students foot 75% of the cost. After attending our public institutions, the average student graduates with $30,000 in debt. That number would have been unthinkable to the bipartisan forces that founded this system.
Of course, over the last 4 years the financial state of the majority of our universities has gotten progressively worse. Under the previous administration we had an 18% cut followed by three years of no increases.
Even as 42 states increased funding for public higher education, ours did not. Pennsylvania now ranks 49th in funding for public higher education.
Since the 2011 cut, resident undergraduate tuition has jumped 17% or over $1,000 per year and average fees have increased by 18%. This Board has approved several tuition pilot programs that could increase tuition for students 25%. How much would that be a threat to the very notion of public higher education?
Just last year, similar to patterns from the years before, the State System faced a $58 million deficit due to years of cuts. Approximately $30 million was filled with another 3% tuition increase. A $28 million hole was left unfilled by this Board.
The remaining deficit was closed by continued cuts on campus. These cuts have already placed 77 programs in moratorium including key programs, like music. It also led to major reductions in faculty and major reductions to staff.
Last year, in the face of the $28 million gap, the Board sent the university presidents on their way thanking them in advance for the hard decisions they were forced to make. There was little if any discussion about the implications of those cuts. There was no talk of needing to raise tuition further to bridge the gap.
After the previous governor announced in 2012 that he wouldn’t cut the budget further, our then Chancellor stood at a press conference with the Governor, and thanked him for that. Instructions were given by the administration to keep tuition capped at the rate of inflation.
The Board complied, and there were no public recriminations. There was no great debate about the needs of the students and the universities. There certainly was no great concern voiced about how the Board could possibly meet any salary “demands” my association might make at the negotiations table.
Last week, April 3rd marked the first night of Passover. It is tradition at the Seder – the Passover dinner ritual – for the youngest in the room to as the 4 questions – which I recited many times. The first of those questions is “Why is this night different from all other nights?”
I am certainly no longer the youngest in the room. But after the watching the committee meetings yesterday, as the sun set, I was and I am still motivated to ask, why was yesterday afternoon so different from other afternoons over the last 4 years.
The only difference I can see is that we now have a governor who genuinely wants to restore public higher education. Over two years, he has proposed fully restoring the $90 million cut. He wants no tuition increases because he foresees the Commonwealth working to meet its obligation to public higher education. It would make for a tough year, but it also makes it a lot less tough than the preceding four years.
Thank you Governor Wolf for that, and thank you Secretary Hanger for delivering that message. Thank you Representative Hannah for making the motion to try to bring that about.
I do not know what action the Board will take today or what will be discussed, but after yesterday I am still wondering, why was last night different from all other nights?