Pa. Governor Tom Corbett proposed flat funding in 2014-15 state appropriations to the PA. State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) for the third year in a row on Tuesday.
“Inflation is occurring, energy costs are going up, labor costs are going up,” said President of the SRU chapter of the Association of Pa. Stat College and University Faculties (APSCUF), Dr. Patrick Burkhart. “So flat funding actually diminishes the amount of money you have available to purchase products, so it erodes the financial basis upon which you can support the institution.”
“I understand currently because we took a cut in appropriations and then have been followed for several sequential years by flat funding that we’re actually being funded at amounts equal to about a decade ago. Not only have costs increased, but the size of the student body has increased so the per capita share is also down.”
“Flat funding hurts you in a couple of different ways and it clearly reflects a diminution in the commitment to public education.”
SRU Vice President of Finances Molly Mercer stated that PASSHE was disappointed by the governor’s decision, because they requested a 4 percent increase in appropriations.
“We really were hopeful,” explained Mercer. “We weren’t asking for substantial increases, PASSHE was realistic with what their requests were, kind of recognizing the challenges that the commonwealth is facing. So, essentially we were asking for a cost of living adjustment along with support for retooling our programs. We felt those were reasonable requests so it was disappointing that we’re looking at level funding again.”
Despite the lack of funding increase to PASSHE, Corbett stated that he is adamant about backing Pa.’s education system.
“Education is the largest single item in my budget,” Corbett said during his speech Tuesday. “The increase I propose would bring direct state support of public education to $10.1 billion, more than 40 percent of state spending.”
Although a lot of funding is going towards various parts of public K-12 schools, he also stated that he was planning a new scholarship program for students who need assistance paying for higher education.
“We all know post-secondary degrees are costly and sometimes out of reach as students and their families worry about debt,” Corbett said “With this budget, we will launch the Ready to Succeed Scholarship program, which will provide an additional $25 million for middle income students who want to earn a two- or four-year degree.”
According to PASSHE Media Relations Manager Kenn Marshall, the budget has not yet been finalized. Before it is, the House Appropriations committee, and the Senate Appropriations committee will discuss it in two separate public hearings on Feb. 20.