For a second straight year, Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed budget includes steep funding cuts for higher education, putting students and families on edge as legislators prepare to debate the spending plan.
After proposing a 50 percent cut last year to state-related universities, legislators eventually approved a 19 percent reduction in funding. Yesterday, Corbett called for a 30-percent drop in funding for three of the four state-related universities, with Lincoln University the sole recipient of level funding. The 14 state-owned universities, including Cheyney and West Chester, would see a 20 percent dropoff.
Corbett said it is time to have a “thorough, public and candid conversation” about how to deal with spiraling costs. But college officials indicated the reductions could lead to higher tuition.
“We have become leaner and more focused on a quality education. That effort continues,” Temple President Ann Weaver Hart said in a video response. “The governor’s plan, however, is not one that can be met by cutting costs. If approved by the General Assembly, this reduction in support will be felt by every student, parent and employee.”
A coalition of students from local universities plan to rally on Temple’s campus next month to oppose the proposed cuts.
“It’s not really surprising,” said senior Rand Williamson, a member of Occupy Temple. “I think he made it pretty clear last year what he values, and it’s not education.”
The reaction from Penn State University, where Corbett is on the Board of Trustees, was more reserved.
“We will do everything we can to continue to cut costs and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of delivering our broad range of instructional programs,” said PSU President Rodney Erickson.
Advisory panel would come with cuts
Corbett created an advisory panel on higher education that would evaluate the system and make recommendations on how to make it accessible and affordable for students and fair to taxpayers.
The panel will be chaired by Rob Wonderling, president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and a former state senator. The 30-member panel also includes other education and business leaders.
In addition to affordability, the group is charged with evaluating the role of technology and how higher education can increase collaboration with government and the private sector.
The panel is expected to issue a report by Nov. 15.
All of the state’s higher education system would take a hit, except for community colleges:
Current: $140 million
Proposed: $98 million
Penn State University
Current: $227.7 million
Proposed: $194.6 million
University of Pittsburgh
Current: $136 million
Proposed: $95.4 million
State System of Higher Education (Operates 14 state-owned universities)
Current: $412.7 million
Proposed: $330.2 million
Current: $212.2 million
Proposed: $221.9 million