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Students see good and bad in governor’s higher-education budget proposal

8 February 2013 No Comment


Local college students praised a proposal to flat-fund higher education and promote smaller tuition increases, but they also worried about the implications a minimal budget could have on their educations.

Gov. Tom Corbett proposed a 2013-14 budget plan this week that includes flat funding for higher education, keeping with last year’s level of $1.58 billion. In return, he asked the 18 publicly funded universities to keep tuition increases “as low as possible.”

Kayla Klinedinst, left, and Chris Laughlin study at Starbucks in the Shippensburg University library on Thursday, February, 7, 2013. (Public Opinion/Ryan Blackwell)

A Public Opinion reporter visited popular gathering areas Thursday at Penn State Mont Alto and Shippensburg University to find out what students think about the higher education funding proposal.
Most saw it as a way to reduce the size and frequency of tuition increases. “I think that’s the way it should be,” said Holly Funk, a freshman occupational therapy major at PSMA.

If tuition increases, financial aid should, too, Funk added. The amount of money she puts into her education is vital to her lifestyle; in order to go to school she cut back to part-time at her job at ARC of Washington County (Md.) working with adults with developmental disabilities. But she still has just as many expenses in caring for her family.

Dustin Keefer, a junior biology major at PSMA, said he always favors not increasing costs. He commended Corbett for encouraging schools to keep tuition low.

“Tuition is expensive as it is,” he said.

At Shippensburg, junior environmental studies major Zack Mooney gave the governor a figurative pat on the back.

“I’d be more than happy for him to stick up for students and side with us to keep tuition down,” he said.

Corbett’s proposal was a relief to some students who were thinking back to his proposal from last year for a 20 percent cut to SU and the other 13 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, and a 30 percent cut from Penn State, Temple University and University of Pittsburgh.

The revised and approved budget ended up cutting 15.9 percent overall to higher education.

One of those students was Ethan Goldbach, president of SU’s Student Senate. He called this year’s proposal “certainly better” than last year, and thinks maintaining higher education funding is a positive thing.

“That’s definitely a good sign that we’re at least at a plateau for now,” he said.

SU junior Sarah Maize, a Student Senate member who majors in social work and psychology, agreed with Goldbach. She called the proposal “a lot less terrifying” than it could have been.
Possible downfalls were not forgotten, though, as students recognized that smaller budgets could lead to fewer academic opportunities.

Allison Herr, a junior majoring in education at SU, hoped minimal tuition increases would not affect the academic atmosphere she enjoys, including small class sizes and well-qualified professors who are dedicated to contributing to student success.

Although it may be tougher because of potential side effects, offering level funding and pushing for low tuition hikes is in Corbett’s best interest, she said.

Program cuts would be “bad and sad,” said Chris Laughlin, a senior physics major who was doing school work in SU’s library. In fact, he said, education should be continually updated to keep up with the world’s fast forward-moving pace.

“Education shouldn’t be limited to a budget,” he said.
Nickolys Hinton, a first-semester sophomore, agreed that a proactive approach is best for keeping SU, and other schools, modern. He added that although Corbett’s proposal looks good on paper, breaking it down into fundamentals turns it into one he thinks will not work out.

PASSHE universities make up the majority of the 18 schools that get state funding. It recently reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement with its faculty union, Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, 19 months after the last contract expired.

In a statement provided by PASSHE communications director Kenn Marshall, PASSHE’s Board of Governors Chairman Guido M. Pichini said: “We are grateful to Governor Corbett for his support and look forward to working with him and the Legislature over the coming weeks to achieve the funding necessary to ensure our universities can continue to offer high quality, affordable education to our students.”

It is too early to tell how PASSHE schools will address Corbett’s request for minimal tuition increases, Marshall added.

Pete Gigliotti, communications director at SU, gave the same explanation when asked how SU could be affected.

“As always, Shippensburg University will make the most effective and efficient use of all funds we receive to continue to provide students with an education recognized nationally for its excellence,” he said in an e-mail.

Tuition at PSMA and the other Penn State satellite campuses is determined by administrators in State College. Kristen Frye, PSMA public relations director, gave a similar response as Gigliotti and Marshall, saying it’s impossible to tell how PSMA may be affected without knowing how much funding state schools will actually get.

“There are two sources of funding for Penn State’s educational budget — tuition and state support. Any change in either one will affect the other,” she wrote.

Fry added that Penn State will make its case for adequate funding from the state when President Rodney Erickson appears before the House Appropriations Committee on Feb. 25 and Senate Appropriate Committee on Feb. 28 in Harrisburg.

Higher education and the proposed PA budget
In his proposed 2013-14 Pennsylvania budget, Gov. Tom Corbett provided flat funding for higher education in exchange for a commitment to keep tuition increases “as low as possible.”
A similar deal last year, linked to tuition increases no higher than inflation rates, resulted in the lowest tuition increases in a decade for Penn State, Temple University and University of Pittsburgh. It provided for the smallest increase in five years for the 14 schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.
No specific limit to tuition increases will be set until later this year, but Corbett hopes increases will be in the range of last year. For Shippensburg University and other PASSHE schools, this means 3 percent. Penn State Mont Alto’s tuition for in-state students increased nearly 2 percent between the 2011-12 and this school year; however, tuition at University Park rose 2.4 percent.
— Source, Capitolwire.com

Amber South can be reached at asouth@publicopinionnews.com and 262-4771.

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