President Norton told the university at her state of the university address that we are experiencing the perfect financial storm. This “most challenging of financial times” will result in a devastating impact for Slippery Rock, since this storm involves more than belt-tightening, which has already led us to reduce our waist sizes from a lean 34” belt to a 30” belt, since we have been on a starvation diet for many years. This storm has led to the possibility of faculty retrenchment (the firing of faculty). Retrenchment is a demoralizing activity that harms students, faculty and the reputation of Slippery Rock.
President Norton informed the university community that this perfect financial storm is the result of three fronts “ that are colliding to create the budget situation: flat state funding with the potential for minimal or no tuition increases; declining enrollment due to demographic trends in the University’s primary market area; and increased expenses and rising personnel costs.”
Even if these three events are occurring simultaneously, I would argue that there is only in fact one storm, which the President expressed very well in her speech. She said, “while we are grateful for the support we receive from the state, it is a fact that our appropriation per FTE has been reduced by almost 50 percent since 1997/98, from $7,100 to $3,200 in 2012/13.” (So you know, FTEs are what Harrisburg calls students.) I am not feeling that grateful because if our legislators did not reduce our funding, there might be a light drizzle, but there would be would be no storm at all.
In a time when people are complaining about the cost of higher education, the PASSHE State University System is a bargain that over 100,000 students take advantage of. I believe that that our legislators should help our current and future students to afford high quality education taught by professors in the classrooms. Our legislators should be made aware that an educated population benefits the commonwealth and that making education affordable through increasing funding turn students into better citizens.
Private higher education is out of reach financially for the majority of our students. If our legislators are truly concerned about their constituents, then they should try and make public higher education affordable, while keeping the quality of higher education at a high level.