Spanier: Budget cuts may force Penn State campus closings

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Major cuts including possible closure of some of Penn State University's two dozen campuses could result if Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed 50 percent cut in the school's appropriation stands, university President Graham Spanier warned today.

Speaking at a news conference a day after Mr. Corbett unveiled his proposed state budget for 2011-12, Mr. Spanier said the $182 million reduction facing his university is so steep it would alter the very nature of Penn State, and with it the university's ability to support outreach programs felt across the commonwealth in areas including the state's agriculture industry.

The state's subsidy to Penn State makes it possible for the university to maintain an in-state tuition rate that is lower than that charged to out of state students, Mr. Spanier said. It's a differential of nearly $12,000 for undergraduates on the main campus.

Mr. Spanier said the in-state rates would inevitably go up substantially, but he also said students can not be asked to bear the brunt of these cuts.

In fact, he said the university faces painful options ranging from layoffs and furloughs to closure of some units.

"It will affect the viability of some of our campuses," Mr. Spanier said.

He called closure of some of them "a distinct possibility."

But he also vowed to fight for restoration of the money

The 50 percent cut facing Penn State is also faced by the University of Pittsburgh, Temple and Lincoln universities as well as the 14 state owned universities of the State System of Higher Education.

The proposal is being called the largest single year cutback in the history of American public higher education.

Mr. Spanier said the cuts move the state further along in what he described as a privatization of public higher education. University officials expected a difficult budget but nothing of this magnitude.

"We did not have a contingency plan that wiped out half of our appropriation. We are now busy working along those lines."

Penn State has nearly 96,000 students, including its online enrollment.

More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


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