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By KayMills
University Park, Pennsylvania
T
he national recession decreased state revenues
around the country, but colleges and universities in
Pennsylvania faced added drama this fall: The governor
and legislators spent more than three months wrestling with
closing a $3.2 billion deficit, so educators had to start the
school year without knowing howmuch the state would
be contributing to their operations. Finally, on October 9,
Governor Ed Rendell signed a $27.8 billion budget, which
includes $2.6 billion in federal stimulus money. Even with that
federal money included, the state will spend $524 million less
this year than last.
Exasperated by the negotiations at one point, Joe Forrester,
president of the Community College of Beaver County,
said that “this is like watching a dog on roller skates. You
don’t knowwhere it’s going, but no matter where it goes, the
outcome isn’t going to be good.”
The budget outcome underscores a trend that President
Graham Spanier of Penn State has been talking about for
at least five years, that is, “the privatization of American
public higher education.” And Angelo Armenti Jr., president
of California University of Pennsylvania, said his school is
being “privatized without a plan.” Pennsylvania’s community
colleges are also caught in the state’s financial squeeze, with less
opportunity for raising private funds. For example, Forrester,
immediate past president of the Pennsylvania Commission for
Community Colleges, has seen his own school’s state support
diminish from 33 percent of its budget to 28 percent in the last
five years.
Under the final
budget, the Pennsylvania
State System of Higher
Education’s 14 universities,
of which California
University is one, are
receiving almost $465.2
million, plus slightly more
than $38.1 million in
federal stimulus funds, for
a total of $503.4 million.
That compares with a
total of $538.1 million
last year. The state’s 14
community colleges share
an appropriation of $214.2
million, plus $21.5 million
in federal stimulus money, a reduction of 0.21 percent. Both
sectors had record enrollments in fall 2009.
More than a month after the legislature enacted the budget,
however, Penn State still did not know howmuchmoney it
December 2009
Diminishing State Support
Pennsylvania reduces state aid amid relentless tuition hikes and record enrollments
would receive, because its appropriation had not been passed.
Penn State’s status as a “state-related institution”—a designation
it shares with Temple University, the University of Pittsburgh
and Lincoln University—means that its funding is approved
separately.
Penn State is not a state-owned university like California
or any of the 13 other former teachers’ colleges that now
make up the state system, and it does not come under the
same gubernatorial control they do onmatters of tuition or
governance. It seeks state money for its mission to provide
services for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania while
avoiding some of the constraints under which the state
universities operate.
This quasi-independent, quasi-state position figured
in Governor Rendell’s decision this year against including
Penn State and the other three state-related institutions in
Pennsylvania’s application for federal stimulus money, because
the state could not limit tuition increases. But Penn State’s
friends in Congress rose up, and the Department of Education
decided that the governor had to include these schools.
Penn State would be in line to receive $15.8 million in
federal stimulus money as well as $318 million in state funding
for the current fiscal year, the same amount the university
ended up with last year after two rescissions from its original
$338 million appropriation. There is also another $16 million
coming from federal stimulus funds for 2008-09. In the
meantime, Penn State is covering its costs by spending $30
million a month from reserves, said Lisa Powers, a university
spokeswoman.
Nationally, only seven states allocated a lower percentage
of their tax revenues and any lottery profits to higher education
Joe Forrester, president of the Community College of Beaver County, likens state
budget negotiations to “a dog on roller skates. You don’t know where it’s going, but
no matter where it goes, the outcome isn’t going to be good.”
Nationally, only
seven states
allocated a lower
percentage of their
tax revenues and
lottery profits to
higher education
than Pennsylvania’s
4.3 percent.
Michael Robinson, Black Star, for CrossTalk