Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed multi-billion spending bill allocates $75 million to Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) schools, preventing tuition increases.
“We proposed a 2% tuition increase,” Slippery Rock University President William Behre said. “If the $75 million comes through, we don’t have a tuition increase.”
The total investment into higher education is $125 million. Penn State University would receive $12.1 million.
PASSHE director of media relations Kevin Hensil called this a “historic investment in the state system and its students.”
Hensil previously served as Wolf’s deputy press secretary just a few weeks ago.
However, a $75 million allocation does not mean SRU is out of hot water.
The PASSHE Board of Governors sets tuition costs and is redesigning the formula on which they allocate money to the universities. The board can also designate part of that money for certain projects.
“If we don’t get a reasonable increase in the allocation, we’ll start next year in a modest deficit if we did nothing,” Behre said. “We won’t do nothing.”
If the university receives the funding they need, they will still decide on where they can save money but under much less pressure to provide an immediate solution.
However, if the proposed bill is not passed and PASSHE schools do not receive $75 million, the board of governors will likely vote on a tuition increase, which would force the SRU administration to reexamine what it means to be Slippery Rock University.
“Of the things we do today, what could we stop doing and still be Slippery Rock?” Behre said.
It adds a sense of urgency when you are trying to balance the budget, he said.
This is not the outcome the chancellor’s office is looking for though. They want “all Pennsylvanians to have an affordable path to a degree and credentials,” Hensil said.
“The budget recognizes the importance of SRU and the other state system universities continuing to provide the most affordable four-year education option in Pennsylvania,” he said.
The proposed bill also provides relief to university students by funding various programs and scholarships.
It outlines a $200 million investment in the Nellie Bly Tuition Program which financially assists PASSHE and community college students in the healthcare, education and public service sectors.
The scholarship is open to students who pledge to stay in Pennsylvania after graduation for an equal number of years they received scholarship funds.
The bill also establishes a grant program to invest $1 million in the Hunger-Free Campus Initiative to combat food insecurity and invests an additional $500,000 each in the Adult Education and Family Literacy program and the It’s On Us PA initiative which protects students from sexual violence.
Other notable propositions outside the higher education system include investing $1.2 billion into Early Intervention tracking to add postpartum depression as an early identification category and investing $77.7 million to make childcare more accessible and affordable by reducing co-payments.
The bill also includes an increase of the minimum teacher’s salary to $45,000, a policy that was previously struck down.
The Board of Governors will next meet March 2 at 4:30 p.m., but the agenda does not show any discussion about the governor’s proposed budget or statewide tuition rates.
“We are grateful to the governor for proposing this budget, and look forward to talking with the general assembly about the life-changing difference this investment would mean for students and our commonwealth,” Hensil said.