President Barron Reviews University Budget At Student Forum
President Eric Barron, in a continued effort to encourage open dialogue between himself and students, hosted a forum Monday afternoon to discuss the University’s budget allocations and their impact on students.
Barron opened his presentation with an overview of Penn State’s total operating budget of $4.6 billion, and explained where that money comes from and how it’s divided. Unsurprisingly, the bulk of the budget comes from tuition and fees (34.5 percent), then from hospitals and clinics (32 percent), followed by restricted funds (13.8 percent).
“The picture develops very clearly that it costs a certain amount to provide you with a quality education,” Barron explained. “I can benchmark how efficient I am against these institutions to compare how much I have to invest with how much money my peers have to invest.”
Tuition funding surpassed government appropriation funding for the university in the 1980s. The gap between the two continued to grow, and has never been larger. Currently, Penn State receives the least amount of government appropriation funding in the Big Ten.
“I know I’m in the bottom half of the Big Ten in terms of the amount of money that I have to spend,” Barron said. “On the other hand, the ranking of Penn State among public institutions in the Big Ten puts us at No. 2 or No. 4, depending on the year. So, the quality rank delivered by our dollars is in the top quarter of the Big Ten.”
Barron used this complexity to argue that no other Big Ten institution invests more effectively than Penn State.
“We’re not wasting our money on things that don’t deliver quality, and the quality of this institution is something that’s going to affect you for the rest of your life,” he said.
Barron made note of some highlights that come at the price of attending the university. Penn State’s World Campus was recently ranked No. 1 for Bachelor’s programs among online degree offerers, and 40 percent of the university’s entering students are first in their family to go to college, which Barron said is “a huge statement of the value of the degree.”
Earlier this month, Governor Tom Wolf proposed a 23 percent increase in appropriations to Penn State, which would total $49.6 million in additional funding. If the legislation is approved, it would put the university in a position it has not been in many years. The $49.6 million would allow for a tuition freeze for in-state students and help fund new and innovative programs. Barron cited more opportunities for students to work one-on-one with faculty as well as other study abroad options.
Barron ended the budget forum by taking student questions. Multiple graduate students voiced their concerns over affordable housing and graduate insurance. One student asked if there were plans to “level the playing field” when it comes to allocating funds towards the humanities versus STEM fields.
“You’re telling me it’s important, and it’s on our list,” Barron responded, assuring that he acknowledged the concerns.
Monday’s forum, which was titled the “President’s Forum on the Penn State Budget,” served as a follow-up to last semester’s forum on student affordability and economic impact at Penn State.
The student forum was recorded and live-streamed online, and will be made available through budget.psu.edu.