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Penn State Resigns Itself to 19% Appropriation Cut

Penn State has encouraged state legislators to approve a non-preferred appropriations bill that would see its funding reduced by 19% — a significant change from Gov. Tom Corbett’s initially proposed cut of more than 50%. 

In a letter sent to state legislators early this week, University lobbyist Richard DiEugenio explained that a failure to pass the bill before the June 30 deadline would hinder the university trustees’ ability to set its budget and contingent tuition schedules. DiEugenio said in the letter that if the bill is indeed passed before the June 30 deadline, Penn State’s tuition increase would be “among the lowest in recent memory.”

After grandstanding on the bill Monday afternoon, most Democratic legislators apparently came around to support the Republican proposal yesterday, according to a report from the Philadelphia Inquirer. Penn State President Graham Spanier was quoted in the article as saying that Penn State’s ensuing tuition increase, “will definitely be on the low end.”

In today’s paper, The Daily Collegian quoted Tor Michaels, Rep. Scott Conklin’s Chief of Staff, as saying that he expects to see a budget by the end of the week. Conklin, notably, had said earlier that he would not support the 19% cut proposal.

The university’s appropriation for the coming year has varied widely over the past nine months both in what school officials have requested and what lawmakers have proposed. In September 2010, the university’s trustees asked for a 5% increase in its state appropriations to compensate for non-recurring federal stimulus funding. At the time, Spanier noted that he had no idea how the then-undetermined gubernatorial administration would respond to the state’s significant structural deficit.

Not long after Gov. Tom Corbett took office, he released a 2011-12 budget proposal that included a cut of more than 50% to Penn State’s appropriation, as well as to those of the three other state-related universities. Penn State President Graham Spanier responded not long after in a 55-minute press conference held in the Outreach Building at University Park, where he told reporters and other attendees that Abraham Lincoln was “weeping” at the Corbett-proposed cuts.

Through the spring, Penn State students and administration lobbied state legislators for moderation in the cuts through protests and appearances in front of appropriate committees, while also making structural adjustments to the university that included the closure of the Science, Technology, and Society program (a recommendation put forth by the Core Council, which in fact began its work well before Corbett even took office) and layoffs in numerous units, most recently in Penn State Outreach. The student impact of the reduced appropriation is still unclear, though.

The university trustees will meet at the Penn State Lehigh Valley campus in mid-July, when they will approve an operating budget for the upcoming year and set a new tuition schedule. Onward State and our sister site will be there with live updates, so stay tuned.

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Creator of @OnwardState. Big fan of sweaters.

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