No stimulus money for Pitt and Penn State

Rendell delivers big budget blow to four state-related universities

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In a further sign that Gov. Ed Rendell no longer views them as truly public campuses, the four state-related universities have been removed from the state's application for federal stimulus money to aid public higher education.

The move means more than $40 million collectively earmarked for the four schools to offset a proposed 6 percent cut in each's state appropriation next year will not be forthcoming, officials with the Rendell administration confirmed yesterday.

Penn State University had hoped for about $20 million in stimulus aid; the University of Pittsburgh expected roughly $10 million; Temple University sought nearly $11 million, and Lincoln University was anticipating $870,000.

And there was more bad news yesterday for the four schools.

Once the governor's newly proposed budget cuts are factored in, the four schools could wind up with a 2009-10 appropriation 13 percent below this year.

At Penn State, the largest of the schools, the governor's newly revised proposals would be devastating if enacted, spokesman Geoff Rushton said.

Penn State began this fiscal year, which ends June 30, with a $338 million state appropriation, but lost $20 million when the governor last fall announced a mid-year 6 percent cut in subsidies to the four schools. Penn State had hoped the stimulus aid, when applied to its proposed 2009-10 appropriation, would bring funding levels back up to $338 million.

Instead, as currently proposed, its appropriation would total $277.5 million -- or roughly $60 million less than at the start of this fiscal year.

"That proposed amount would certainly be a catastrophic cut to the university," Mr. Rushton said. "But at the same time, we anticipate that this will be resolved by [the Legislature and governor] over the coming months."

His school, which in two weeks is due to adopt its budget and tuition rates for next year, said it's too soon to say how the cuts would be absorbed.

He said Penn State hopes budget talks will enable the state-related schools to be placed back onto the stimulus aid application.

For Pitt, the governor's revised budget proposal means its 2009-10 appropriation would be $140 million, instead of $160 million. Temple's would be $144 million instead of $165 million. A figure was not available for Lincoln.

In a statement, Pitt said it was "stunned" by Mr. Rendell's moves and warned they would place "very significant new tuition burdens on tens of thousands of Pennsylvania students and their families."

In February, Mr. Rendell omitted the four schools from a tuition relief proposal covering state universities and community colleges. Asked why, he told the Post-Gazette the four schools "are not fully public universities" and that he does not control their tuition decisions and other practices.

A preliminary version of Pennsylvania's federal stimulus application, dated April 24 and signed by the governor, included the four schools. But they were removed from an updated version, dated yesterday and also signed by Mr. Rendell. In their place was stimulus funding for state universities and community colleges.

The application said state-related schools, which receive limited tax support, fall under a category of institutions "not under the absolute control of the Commonwealth."

n Gov. Rendell offers a $500 million cut in the budget. Page B-1


Bill Schackner can be reached at bschackner@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1977.


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