February 29, 2012 | By | Posted in Legislature

Gloves come off in battle for PA higher ed funds

PA State System schools face 20 percent cut
By Stacy Brown | PA Independent
HARRISBURG — For one university president, the proposed cuts in state aid to higher education could place the nation in jeopardy.

"The quality of what we're offering is in jeopardy. I do believe this country should provide affordable education, because without it, we're in jeopardy as a nation," said Francine McNary, president, Millersville University in Millersville.
She joined other Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, or PASSHE, officials and state lawmakers, who expressed outrage over Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed 20 percent cut in aid at a Tuesday hearing before the state Senate Appropriations Committee.
“The proposed budget represents the latest in a cascade of reductions to (PASSHE) in the past 18 months. If this proposal stands, we will have lost more than $170 million in state and federal education and general funding," said PASSHE chancellor John Cavanaugh.
PASSHE has more than 120,000 students in its 14 universities. The cost to attend is roughly $6,400 per year, Cavanaugh said. However, with budget cuts, tuition certainly will rise, he said.
Leonard Altieri, a student at West Chester University in West Chester, said talk of funding cuts has dominated dorm room conversations among students, since Corbett's Feb. 7 budget release.
"There's a fear among students that they won't be able to finish their educations," because of the cuts, Altieri said.
Since Corbett announced his proposed 2013 budget earlier this month, lawmakers have invited leaders of various state departments to the Capitol for public hearings, where verbal sparring has run deep during discussion about reduced spending in welfare, transportation, museums and other programs.
Under Corbett's proposal, the total reduction would be $249 million for the PASSHE schools, which are owned by the state and almost entirely state-funded.
PASSHE schools include Clarion University in Clarion and East Stroudsburg University in the Monroe County.
PASSHE does not include the four state-related universities, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Temple and Lincoln, which have long histories of receiving taxpayer money, but are not owned or controlled by the state. 

Last year, Corbett called for a 50 percent cut in state dollars to the state-related schools, but lawmakers approved a 30 percent cut to the schools’ subsidies, totaling $212 million.

"Corbett has continued his assault on public education, this should hot happen," state Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, said.
State Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Delaware, called Corbett's proposal bad policy direction.
"It's not a cut, it's an abandonment," Leach said.
Even a top Republican expressed concern over the PASSHE cuts.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jake Corman, R-Centre, said he plans to try and eliminate the proposed cuts from the budget.
"That's my goal," Corman said.
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