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than Pennsylvania’s 4.3 percent,
according to a report this year from
the State Higher Education Executive
Officers organization. The U.S.
average was 6.5 percent. The report
also showed that between fiscal years
2003 and 2008, Pennsylvania’s public
higher education appropriation
per student (full-time equivalent)
fell by 10.8 percent. Per-student
appropriations in only three
states—Massachusetts, Michigan and
These figures are set against
rising state support for higher
education generally, at least until this
year. SHEEO reported that total state
support for public higher education
grew from $24.4 billion in 1983 to
$89.2 billion by 2008 (in current
dollars), accompanying enrollment
increases since 1983 from 7.5 million
students to 10.5 million. However,
the SHEEO report acknowledged
that budget conditions this year
“seem less favorable inmany states,” and the national trend
might not be sustained in the coming year.
JaneWellman, executive director of the nonprofit Delta
Cost Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity
and Accountability, cited studies showing that while state
spending on higher education, per student, may rebound
some after downturns, it does not return to the previous
heights. While tuition is going up, “the trend line for state
appropriations per student is going down,”Wellman said.
“Students are paying more and getting less.”
“It’s not that we have a goal of being private,” Spanier said,
in reference to the trend in state spending. “It’s a reality that has
evolved.” According to Spanier, when he
became president of Penn State 14 years
ago, Pennsylvania was providing 20
percent of the university’s total annual
budget. Now it’s down to eight percent.
Overall, state support almost doubled
from $162.7 million in 1984-85 to a
high point of $348.7 million in 2007-
08, but the university’s budget grew
five times as big between those years
(from $683.3 million in 1984-85 to $3.4
billion in 2007-08). This year’s operating
budget will be $3.7 to $3.8 billion.
Penn State’s fundraising has risen
steadily, from just over $31 million in 1985, and just under $83
million in 1995, to $182.1 million in the last fiscal year. “It used
to be that fundraising was important for private universities,
but now public universities are just as heavily involved,”
Spanier said. “In five to six years we may be receiving more
money fromdonors than we receive from the state.”
Seeing what was coming in terms of state financing, last
fall Spanier announced that there would be no pay raises this
year. “No one in administration, no one on the faculty, no one
on the staff would get them,” he said. “And the labor union
agreed to change its agreement. We did this in order to hold
any tuition increase down to a reasonable amount and to avoid
significant furloughs.”The freeze saved $30 million.
With the budget situation remaining uncertain this
summer, Penn State’s trustees enacted two potential tuition
plans. One was a “worst-case scenario” that would have raised
tuition by 9.8 percent for lower-division Pennsylvania residents
at the University Park campus, and by 4.9 percent for those
at one of the university’s regional campuses. That was based
on the governor’s June proposal that would have given Penn
State $277.5 million, the same level as in 1997. The other plan,
which later took effect, raised tuition by 4.5 percent for state
residents at University Park, and by 3.9 percent at the other
campuses. Residents this fall are paying $13,604, up from
$13,014 in 2008.
At California University and other schools in that state
system, Pennsylvania residents are paying $5,554, a 3.7 percent
increase over last year.
“It’s a really compelling argument that legislators can
latch onto—that higher education is one of the few parts of
state government that can raise revenue,” said Donald Heller,
director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education at
Penn State. Tuition at Penn State has increased so much that by
2005, it “surpassed the University of Vermont for the first time
to become the most expensive public flagship university in the
nation,” Heller said.
As part of its efforts to save money for the past two
decades, Penn State has required all departments except for
the library and student aid to turn back one percent of their
budgets each year, said Rodney Erickson, executive vice
president and provost. “It creates a leanness to the operation.”
Penn State has also been working to reduce energy costs,
equipping new buildings with sensors that turn off the lights
if there is no motion in a room for a certain amount of time,
replacing old dormitory windows with those that are more
energy efficient, and installing better thermostats. “There
are even teams of students who turn off all the lights around
the campus that might have been left on on a Friday night,”
Spanier said.
Between 1990 and 2006, Pennsylvania drastically shifted
its priorities away frompublic higher education, said Angelo
Armenti, who has been California University’s president for
17 years, thus reducing the share of the state budget devoted
to public higher education from seven percent to four percent.
The state corrections systemnow receives the same share of
the state budget as public higher education.
If there is any state plan for dealing with this reduction
in state money, Armenti said, he has seen no sign of it. He
concluded that if his school were going to be privatized, “we
had better be ready to compete as a private university.” State
support for California University has dropped from 63 percent
of its budget to 37 percent over the last 25 years.
The college-age population normally attracted to a nearby
school in southwestern Pennsylvania was shrinking, so
Armenti said the school had to attract students from farther
away, and therefore needed to beautify its campus. California
also set up a public-private partnership to raise $125 million
“It’s not that we have a goal of being private,”
says Graham Spanier, president of Penn State.
“It’s a reality that has evolved.”
Between 1990 and
2006, Pennsylvania
reduced the share of
the state budget
devoted to public higher
education from seven
percent to four percent.
William Thomas Cain, Black Star, for CrossTalk