Pennsylvania state legislators have yet to pass a budget — including appropriations for state-related universities like Penn State. Even though the state is supposed to pass a budget by July 1, the legislature rarely meets that deadline.
A budget impasse lasted until March 2016 during the 2015-2016 budget season, but legislators were able to agree on the 2016-2017 by July 13 last year. Legislators agreed on a $32 billion spending package this year and Governor Tom Wolf allowed it to pass without his signature. But now they’ve got to find a way to fund it.
“The most recent proposition was that we receive flat funding (no increase or decrease from the state),” said Isaac Will, governmental affairs chair for the University Park Undergraduate Association. “Obviously, however, as the impasse continues, a number of different possibilities are being thrown around — except for an increase.”
Penn State’s two main sources of revenue for the education and general budget are tuition and state appropriations. Without support from the state, Penn State will be forced to cut costs (probably by cutting programs or increase tuition yet again).
And some legislators have already cited higher education funding cuts as a possible avenue to balancing the budget.
“The budget’s non-preferred appropriations — for Pennsylvania’s state-related universities…which total roughly $600 million in spending, would not be approved for the time being, meaning the FY2017-18 spending plan, with all the code bills, represent a balanced budget, if the governor signs them or allows them to become law,” House Republican Majority Leader Dave Reed said, according to Capitolwire.
Penn State President Eric Barron and Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher shared an op-ed last week explaining the value of state-related institutions to the Commonwealth and the importance of state funding to the universities.
“As with any other issue of interest to students, the best thing to do is to get personally involved, and to convince others to join you,” said Zack Moore, Penn State’s vice president for government and community relations. “Call or email your state legislator, engage in social media advocacy, or visit your state legislator in person to let them know how important state support for Penn State is to you.”
The UPUA is working with the Pennsylvania Association of State-Related Schools (PASS) to organize a rally on the capitol stairs in Harrisburg at noon on October 3, which will be similar to the annual Capital Day the organization holds each spring. The four student body presidents — from Temple, Lincoln, Pitt, and Penn State — will speak inside the capitol building. Attendance for the rally is incredibly important, so anyone is welcome to join them on the trip.
What can students do in the meantime?
“Literally any kind of contact with legislators at all would be fantastic,” Will said. “Letters are good. Social media is good. Phone calls are better. Meetings are fantastic. Just make themselves heard in any form or another could have a tremendous impact.”