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Onward Debates: Public State University

Penn State University was founded in 1855 to be a “land-grant” university. Now, more than 150 years later, our university tops lists as the most expensive public school in America. However, one key factor that those ranking systems (as well as many students) miss is the fact that Penn State is not a public university; it’s currently designated as “state-related.” With Governor Corbett’s recent announcement of a 30% cut in state appropriations, now is the time for Penn State to make the official switch to being a public school.

Being state-related, Penn State is able to exist without following the same laws that govern other state-owned public universities, such as the Right to Know Act. This means that the public has the right to know how their tax-dollars are spent. State-related universities, which include Pitt and Temple as well as Penn State, get public funds without having the same transparency that state schools, like Millersville, do.

Currently, Penn State only has to report its top 25 highest paid employees, but doesn’t have to report any other spending. Taxpayers in the audience, does this seem fair to you? With interest in our university’s transparency at an already elevated level due to the Sandusky scandal, now more than ever is the time for Penn State to stop keeping its records under lock and key.

Twitter rang with updates from enraged students when Governor Corbett announced the latest cuts to Penn State funding. But if we go private, Pennsylvania will no longer owe Penn State any money. Some may argue that Penn State received a little less than 15% of its budget from the state anyway, and that 15% seems inconsequential. But to put it in perspective, students organized marches over the idea of a single-digit tuition raise last year. Just imagine the effect of a 15% drop.

In an age where student debt exceeds credit card debt, America is hurtling toward an educational system that views higher education as a privilege for those who can afford it, effectively killing the “American Dream.” Now is not the time for Penn State to turn its back on the students it was founded to serve.

Penn State’s mission statement offers “unparalleled access and public service to support the citizens of the Commonwealth.” In the wake of scandal that was arguably worsened by a lack of transparency, is it really in our best interest to forfeit the university’s tradition as a land-grant institution?

You can find the argument for Penn State going private here

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