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well because the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance
Agency (PHEAA) provided no grants during the budget
impasse. Students often use that money for transportation
or housing, and they did not get the money they had been
counting on at the beginning of the fall semester, Garbinski
said. Penn State credited students with the amount they would
have received had the budget passed, costing the school $25
million.
About ten to 12 percent of the Beaver County college’s
students are defined as academically “at risk,” and they need
extra services, said Jan Kaminski, dean of academic support
services. Many take developmental math and English courses
and require tutoring and counseling. “We track themdown
and entice themwith these special programs, but when you get
them, you have to give them that added push,” Kaminski said.
“Just because that door is open doesn’t mean it stays open. It
won’t stay open without those support services.”
The state also provides aid to some of its private colleges
and universities, some of which existed before any public
universities opened, said Don Francis, president of the
Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of
Pennsylvania. These private universities award 50 percent of
the degrees in the state, Francis said. “There is a very robust
state grant program” for students at these institutions, he said,
because the state considers it healthy to support them. It can
contribute less to the overall education at private institutions
“because we have more private dollars.”
In addition to PHEAA grants for students at private
colleges such as Penn, the state provides some support for
medical and veterinary education and other specialized
programs, as well as institutional assistance grants to reward
institutions for enrolling low- andmoderate-income students.
Public institutions are not necessarily happy about that
state support. “This is a state where everybody gets a slice
of the pie,” said Joe Forrester. “But this produces inequities,
because community colleges enroll 22 percent
of all the undergraduates in the state but
receive only four percent of PHEAAmoney.”
Penn State’s Spanier said that “private
education has always been key” in the
northeast, pointing out that many American
universities began as private, church-related
institutions. They were, by and large, the only
universities until the Morrill Act of 1862
created land-grant colleges such as Penn State,
with the original aim of teaching agriculture
and engineering.
“People in the state and in the legislature
still have in their heads that there’s
something special” about these private
institutions, Spanier said. In those states
where those schools got started—Massachusetts, New Jersey,
Pennsylvania—there is the lowest level in state support, he
added, whereas people in the west and the Great Plains saw
education as the key and developed public higher education
systems. “I always tell people it’s been every governor, every
legislature, that’s done this. That’s just the history here. There’s
no one person who stuck it to us.”
Spanier is concerned that the diminishing state support
has affected Penn State’s ability to serve the commonwealth.
“We are the university that the state has relied onmost
heavily to provide a broad range of services to the state. The
things we do for agriculture, forestry, public safety, economic
development—in some other states, the state does it directly.
But the state has backed off on supporting these activities.
We’re at a juncture where we’re saying we can’t ask our
undergraduate students, through their tuition, to pay for these
services.”
Penn State’s Rodney Erickson is concerned about what
the drop in state aid and relentless tuition hikes mean for the
makeup of the student body. All over the country, “there’s
a retreat frompublic higher education,” he said. “We have
educated large numbers of students who have gone on to
successful careers, and nowwe know the gap between earnings
of college graduates and high school graduates is huge.
But many of the public view higher education as a private
investment,” and therefore are willing to put more of the
burden on students and their families.
“What will happen eventually as tuition has to rise?”
Erickson asked. “Students at flagship public institutions all
over the country are going to be coming from families of high-
income status, making it difficult to attract a diverse student
body. We won’t be able to serve as an engine of social change
as institutions like Penn State, Michigan State and Illinois have
done for decades,” he said.
“That aspect really concerns me a lot,” Erickson
added. “There is so much that we could be doing for the
commonwealth,” he said. “We want students to have an
experience in an institution that’s like the world they’ll live in.”
It is an experience he fears they will no longer be having.
u
KayMills is the author of “This Little Light of Mine: The Life of
Fannie Lou Hamer” and four other books.
State support for
California University
of Pennsylvania
has dropped from
63 percent of
its budget to 37
percent over the
last 25 years.
Penn State’s requirement that all departments turn back one
percent of their budgets each year, “creates a leanness to the
operation,” said Rodney Erickson, executive vice president and
provost.
William Thomas Cain, Black Star, for CrossTalk