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UPUA President, PASS Schools Call For State Budget Action

Community Content by: Emily McDonald, Nasreen Harun, Ryan Rinaldi, Terrell Smith

McDonald is Penn State’s student body president; Harun is University of Pittsburgh’s student body president; Rinaldi is Temple University’s student body president; Smith is Lincoln University’s student body president.

On January 30, 2016, we, as the student body presidents of Pennsylvania’s four state-related universities, joined together to re-establish the Pennsylvania Association of State-Related Students, in order to jointly voice the growing frustration and worries of the hundreds of thousands of students we represent.

Today, due to gridlock in Harrisburg, the four state-related universities in Pennsylvania face the prospect of receiving zero dollars in allocations this year, a $600 million shortfall. The past several years have seen meager state funding, and our universities have adapted by cutting costs where possible, but that is no longer feasible.

If action is not taken, the huge shortfall will have to be made up with a combination of tuition hikes and the cutting of essential programs. Additionally, many students are reliant on PHEAA grants to make ends meet. A failure to fully fund this program will leave students with even more debt, likely pricing many deserving and promising students out of higher education altogether.

Our students are all very proud of the universities they attend. Their time at these institutions provide unparalleled value and allows students to enter postgraduate life as well-rounded citizens. Unfortunately, with the loss of state aid in the middle of their academic year, many students have been left behind, having to search for alternate revenue to make up for their legislature’s inaction.

For years, our student bodies have made tremendous progress with our administrators to seek greater investment in areas that were underserved, including mental health services, entrepreneurship, and research opportunities. However, with the budget holes that have been created by the budget impasse, cuts will be made, rather than increasing investment; we will be taking a step backwards.

Our universities serve more than 110,000 Pennsylvania students and have over $25 billion dollars in economic impact. Our students are a driving force for innovation, business, and research in the Commonwealth.

Our elected officials do not think that the budget impasse is affecting their constituents. They think that blaming the other party is a fine alternative to compromising and passing a budget.  But they are wrong. It is our view that no single party is to blame. Higher education should transcend party lines.

As students deeply impacted by the legislature’s inaction, we call upon you to act for the betterment of Pennsylvanians by funding our state-related institutions. As the largest voting block of the electorate, our generation calls on you to invest in your students. For many students it is already too late. However, you have the power to save many of your constituents and their families from further financial pain, fulfilling the duties they elected you to complete.

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