Facing new cuts, state schools argue for full funding

A push toward privatization imperils affordable college education in Pennsylvania.

That’s what leaders of the so-called state-related schools told a Senate committee Wednesday would happen if painful cuts continue at their institutions.

Gov. Corbett last month proposed a $250 million or 30 percent reduction in funding for Temple, Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh for 2012-2013. Funding for Lincoln University was held at the 2011-2012 level. The universities saw a 10 percent reduction in the current fiscal year budget.

“Our affordable tuition is subsidized by the state appropriation,” said Penn State president Rodney Erickson, who reminded the Senate Appropriations Committee of a pact made in 1863 between the state - which would provide funding - and the land grant institution, which would provide affordable tuition and scientific research and serve as a resource for the state.

University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark Nordenberg, who was among the three university leaders who made a similar case for funding restoration last week before a House panel, warned that if cuts continue tuition for in-state students would triple and branch campuses would be threatened.

Corbett has questioned the level of state investment in higher education and formed a commission to study the possibility of privatizing state schools.

But a top Senate leader in whose district Penn State is located is prepared to block that idea.

Appropriations chairman Sen. Jake Corman (R., Centre) said he is opposed to privatization and wants to see full funding restored to the universities.

Last month Corman said a February hearing for the state-related schools was unnecessary because he felt the universities had made their needs known at hearings last summer.

But following Corbett’s Feb. 7 budget address in which the governor made known the cuts he envisioned, Corman changed his mind. He said he decided that his fellow lawmakers and the public needed to hear what they are getting for their investment in state schools.

“There is a place for public education,” said Corman, who received his undergraduate degree from Penn State.”The Commonwealth gets more than its return on its meager investment.”


Click here for Philly.com's politics page.