Corbett Plans to Cut Funding for PA Higher Education

Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed $27.3 billion state budget will reduce state funding for three of the four major state-related universities.

Duquesne spokeswoman Rose Ravasio said the University “can’t speculate” on the state’s proposed cuts but will address them if Corbett’s budget is passed, writes Wes Crosby at the Duquesne Duke.

Penn State University, the University of Pittsburgh and Temple University would see ~30 percent cuts, while members of the State System of Higher Education, which includes universities such as Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Slippery Rock, would see ~20 percent cuts.

Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg said that Corbett is penalizing universities like Pitt, who, Nordenberg notes, makes extensive contributions to the local economy.

“That form of calculation essentially imposes a mathematical penalty on a research university like Pitt for importing $800 million of research funding into the local economy.

“It may also reflect a fundamental misconception about such funds — which can only be spent on the projects for which they were awarded and are not a source of revenue that can be used for more general purposes or to reduce tuition levels.”

Pitt has already had to raise its tuition by 8.5 percent to make up for the losses made by last year’s cuts.

“Diminished levels of state support, of course, stand as a primary contributor to rising public university tuition and its impact on access and affordability.

“Virtually everyone who has seriously examined these issues has fairly called for colleges and universities to do even more to control their costs but also has recognized that the key culprit is reduced state funding.”

Penn State President Rodney Erickson said that officials at Penn State are to meet with the state’s legislature, wanting to hit home the severity of the impact the cuts would have on the universities and the greater community.

Erickson said:

“In the months ahead, we’ll have an opportunity to make the legislature aware of the likely impacts of these cuts for Penn State programs and how they will affect students and their families.

“We fully appreciate the financial pressure on the Commonwealth in identifying resources, and trust the state understands the consequences of continuing cuts of this magnitude.”

Corbett has been met with strong opposition from university administrators, officials, and faculty members who fear what even more cuts could do to higher education, writes Will Deshong at The Rocket.

Kenn Marshall, a spokesperson for PASSHE, said:

“It’s too early to predict what type of impacts the cuts could have.

“But when you combine $90 million in reductions, a loss of $170 million in general funding over the past two years, losing half of our capital allocation funds and $7 million in deferred maintenance—all that combined leaves a significant impact on universities and students.”

The APSCUF also reacted to the proposals. Dr. Steve Hicks, president of the organization, said:

“Since taking office, Governor Corbett has taken every opportunity to decrease funding for our universities.

“We understand that these are challenging economic times, but our students and their families are already struggling to make ends meet. Additional budget cuts are going to put the college dream out of reach for many Pennsylvanians.

“Our campus communities must stand together for quality education.

“I urge the legislature to reaffirm the promise of affordable higher education for the working families of Pennsylvania.”