Penn State Funding Hearings

Corbett has proposed slashing funding for Penn State and the other three state-relateds by 30 percent in the upcoming fiscal year. He also formed a commission to study higher education and how it can prepare students for the economy. University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark Nordenberg questioned the consistency of Corbett’s proposed budget and his goal for the state to have a job-ready workforce. “There was a fundamental disconnect between the governor’s expressed desire to ensure that there was a strong workforce for the innovation economy of the 21st century and the action items embedded in his budget,” Nordenberg said. “In certain respects, what we’re seeing is the dismantling of a long, long commitment by the commonwealth of Pennsylvania to public higher education, and particularly to public research universities,” Nordenberg said. Erickson pointed out that Penn State is one of the top producers of engineering graduates in the country. It also graduates students in science, earth and mineral sciences and has the only public agricultural college in the state. “We need to understand they’re very often the higher cost programs,” Erickson said. As part of the budget planning process, Penn State asked the state for a 5 percent increase in funding in 2012-13. Under that scenario, tuition increases would be kept below 4 percent. Erickson said if Corbett’s proposed budget passes it would mean bigger tuition increases than the university had planned, staff vacancies left unfilled and program cuts. “We will continue to cut costs wherever we can, because we don’t want to lay the impact of any further cuts any more heavily upon our students and their families than we have to,” Erickson said. “We need to know where this is heading,” he said. Last year, Corbett proposed cutting state funding for Penn State and the other state-relateds in half. The final budget ended up slashing support 20 percent. Tuition for in-state students at University Park is $15,000 a year versus $27,000 for out-of state students. Erickson warned that the impact of state funding cuts would hit lower-income students and those at regional campuses particularly hard. At regional campuses, students come from families with median incomes 10 percent lower than the state median and 60 percent of students work at least 22 hours. “These are the students we’re going to lose as the costs inevitably increase regardless of what we do and as the appropriation goes down,” Erickson said. “And these are people who are absolutely critical to the future of the commonwealth.” “We can’t continue to offer that kind of a tuition break for Pennsylvania residents as the appropriations continue to fall,” he said. The university has had pay freezes for two of the past three years, and Erickson said he will do everything he can “to see if we can find ways to appropriately reward our faculty and staff.” “We’ve got to balance all of these factors,” he said after the hearing. State Rep. Scott Conklin, who sits on the Appropriations Committee, said Corbett’s proposed cuts would be “devastating.” “If you’re going to create jobs in Pennsylvania, there’s two ways you do it,” Conklin, D-Rush Township, said after the hearing. “First off, you invest in infrastructure, new roads and bridges. We’re not doing that. And the second way is to educate young people at an affordable price, and we’re not going to do that.”

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