Student Governments, Administrators Convene In Harrisburg To Discuss State Budget
The Pennsylvania Budget stalemate is eight months old at this point, but steam to do something about it really picked up when the Pennsylvania Association of State-Related Students and their corresponding universities committed themselves to pushing for a budget.
The lack of a budget is impacting the university, and talk of the repercussions are all over Penn State governance. President Barron co-authored an op-ed piece and spoke in last week’s Board of Trustees meetings about how if a budget doesn’t come through, Penn State will have to lay off 1,100 agriculture-extension employees, which impacts our status as a land-grant university. UPUA sent hundreds of letters to the Capitol to display the impact on students, and the state-related schools are working as one to pressure Harrisburg.
What better way then to pressure Harrisburg, though, than to show up? Leaders from Penn State as well as Pitt, Temple, and Lincoln (the four state-related universities) held an appropriations hearing before the House and the Senate on Wednesday. Penn State’s crew included Provost Nick Jones (who was filling in for President Barron — though he did provide a statement in his absence) and a slew of student leaders.
“For more than 150 years, through economic booms and recessions, political constancy and change, the General Assembly has provided financial support for Penn State’s long-standing mission to benefit the citizens of the Commonwealth,” Barron’s statement reads.
“Yet, inconceivably, we are faced with the elimination of state support for our mission, and perhaps facing the elimination of the mission itself.”
If you think about it, Penn State alone boasts 24 campuses and research that the state benefits from. Others argued too that state-related universities drive Pennsylvania economically in addition to academically. Provost Jones, at the request of Senator John Rafferty, spoke on how the lack of funding is slowly but surely impacting Penn State’s faculty retention, despite the university’s best efforts.
Penn State, in its current fiscal year, is facing an appropriations gap of $300 million according to the university. In the long run, in addition to losing ag-extension employees, Penn State runs the risk of significant budget reductions across all areas, a freeze in capital plan projects, liquidation of non-endowed funds, and the elimination of 4-H programs across the state.
For Penn State, no option is too risky when it comes to looking out for itself and the other state-related institutions if a beneficial budget fails to materialize — Jones said that while it isn’t a particularly appealing option, the relationship between state-related universities and the state could be forfeited.
The student body was well represented as well, as UPUA President Emily McDonald, Vice President Terry Ford, Representative Ryan Valencia, GPSA President and Onward State General Manager Kevin Horne, and others made the trip. At Wednesday night’s UPUA meeting, McDonald said things went well.
“We got a lot of positive vibes from the legislators,” McDonald said. “We’re hoping that can light the fire under some people to ignite change and focus on getting a budget. ”
The entirety of the student government body has been advocating early on, which is important seeing as students are directly impacted by the lack of appropriations — everything from missing state aid to a potential for increased tuition.
The four state-related schools need a budget. Penn State needs a budget. Fortunately, our peers and leaders are fighting, but only Governor Wolf can put pen to paper.