All the President’s Bills

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A number of stories ran today that in aggregate paint a dismal picture for the economic state of Penn State.

The Centre Daily Times reported that Graham Spanier told the Faculty Senate on Tuesday there will probably not be any pay raises this year.

“The only way to close a gap of this magnitude with the economic situation around us is to look at salaries,” Spanier said.

He outlined the financial challenges he said the university is facing, including a funding cut of $15 million of its $338 million state appropriation this year and the possibility of another cut. Rising costs for health insurance and retirement along with the likelihood of an increase in electricity prices because of deregulation are coming next year.

The Collegian reported that the University will be accountable for an increase in its electric bill that could be as high as $18 million over the next two years.

The increase in costs could result in an additional $25-per-semester increase in room and board rates to defray rising electricity costs if the university’s appeal is denied, according to a university press release.

More inside.

OK, so to the Senate, Spanier said basically, “times are tough and it’s gotta be you,” and to the students, he said, “times are tough and it’s gotta be you.”

As Safeguard Old State’s Thomas Shakely points out, this fall, the Collegian reported this statement from university spokesperson Lisa Powers,

“Obviously we don’t have $9 million just sitting around,” Powers said, adding the university plans to appeal the decision. “If you didn’t plan to spend $9 million in your budget, it’s not there to be spent. This would be an additional burden on students.”

Shakely opined,

On this final quote, excerpted from the Sept. 26 article in The Daily Collegian, we have another example of the administration’s status quo attitude toward the running of our University. When an unexpected bill comes in, they’ve got no savings account.

The finances are so precisely budgeted that nothing can be spared or cut, so, naturally, they let the bankers loose on the undergraduates. Isn’t the point of responsible governance to ensure your institution is prepared to cope with the unexpected?

Our administrators need to get out of the comfortable yet deadly mindset that students are open pocketbooks, ripe for picking from whenever necessary.

We understand that this is a period of great economic duress, and that the university’s budget is to some extent a victim of the times. However, we agree with Shakely that the university should have been more responsible four years ago, when it first recieved notice of the potential increase in its electric bills.

We’re not sure there is a clear prescription for this situation. From our perspective, it seems that the state would be fulfilling its purpose if it were to step in to help alleviate the extraordinary pressure being put on Penn State at this time. But that prescription is complicated by the complicated relationship between the state and Penn State. We are neither public nor private, we are “state-related.”

The situation will become clearer over the next few months as spring enrollment numbers and projected enrollment numbers for next year are released, and as the state begins deliberating its next budget. Here’s to hoping that in the end, Penn State doesn’t become less affordable than it already is.

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Creator of @OnwardState. Big fan of sweaters. Now at Fusion.

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