Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, PASSHE, Vice Chancellor for External Relations Karen Ball gave a presentation that addressed measures that students, faculty, and staff can take in order to combat a potential decrease in funding from the state for PASSHE schools at the Student Government Association meeting in the Sykes Ballrooms on Nov. 30.At the presentation, which was attended by a variety of students, staff, and faculty along with SGA, Ball announced plans to organize a trip to Harrisburg in March, likely sometime around spring break, that will include representatives from all 14 PASSHE schools to present a unified message to the Pennsylvania legislators in an effort to make an impact on policy-making decisions. Following the in-person visits, the participants will make follow-up phone calls and e-mails to continue to make the cause of funding for higher education known in the state capital.
PASSHE will be competing with many other programs and organizations for the limited available state funding, a struggle that has been ongoing for more than a decade. As recently as 1990, seven percent of the state’s budget went to higher education. The figure has since dropped to a mere four percent, less than is allotted for correctional facilities. Pa. will likely have a budget deficit between $2.5-5 billion, complicating matters further.
“The budget is going to be tough this year, but the better we do in the budget, the lower tuition will be,” Ball said.
The 14 schools in the PASSHE system receive approximately one-third of their funding from state allotments, with the rest of the funding coming from tuition, with approximately 75 percent of this funding being dedicated to school personnel. However, the disparity is likely to further increase next year due to funding issues that the state faces.
According to PASSHE Chancellor Dr. John Cavanaugh, who also attended the meeting and spoke briefly, the state has provided essentially the same amount of money for education for the past several years. However, there had been $38 million in stimulus money to help compliment the state-allotted funding. With the stimulus money now exhausted, the possibility of an increase of approximately five percent in tuition, even if the state continues to fund higher education at what has become the standard amount, appears likely.
West Chester University was the first stop for the PASSHE representatives to announce their plans of organizing a rally in Harrisburg for funding. The strong attendance by students at West Chester confirmed to PASSHE officials that students have an interest and motivation to get more funding from the state.
“The fact is that [the students] are the reason that we are here,” Chancellor Cavanaugh said.
The success of the presentation and the impressive student turnout marked the culmination of extensive efforts of SGA and the University that had been ongoing for weeks, most notably as an e-mail campaign that both informed students of what was happening regarding state funding and the importance of participation in order to produce change.
SGA president Leonard Altieri also spoke at the presentation as a voice for the students, encouraging participation in the March rallies.
“Tuition affects all of us,” he said. “An investment in higher education is an investment into the future of Pennsylvania.”
Full details regarding the exact timing of the trips to Harrisburg were not formalized at the time of the presentation, but PASSHE, through SGA, will continue to keep the University population updated as more information is made available.
“This is important that we do this this year,” Ball said. “I’m very excited about getting [students] into Harrisburg.”
Anthony Fioriglio is a student at West Chester University and can be reached at AF650463@wcupa.edu.