Penn State University President Eric Barron today warned that 1,100 jobs in the university's Agricultural Research and Extension programs could be lost this spring if the programs do not secure a state appropriation by May 1.
He made that dire prediction to his board of trustees, meeting in Hershey, with the state budget standoff in Harrisburg now in its eighth month, leaving Penn State and three other state-related universities including the University of Pittsburgh with no state appropriation eight months into 2015-16.
He said the state aid received this year totals $600 million collectively on those campuses.
Earlier Friday in Pittsburgh, Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher told his board with less specificity of "devastating consequences" that could occur at his school and the others if what he called a "serious game of brinksmanship" continues between Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Republicans in the Legislature.
At Penn State, the situation threatens irreversible impacts on those Agriculture-related programs that provide a range of key services to the agricultural community across Pennsylvania's 67 counties, officials said.
Mr. Barron said the 1,100 positions, if lost, would be statewide.
Penn State said an analysis by the College of Agricultural Sciences found that the jobs in jeopardy range from faculty to part-time extension positions.
The university said another $90 million in federal and county appropriations, and competitive grant funding that flows to the state due to the Commonwealth’s investment, could be lost.
"The power of the land-grant mission is that it serves the Commonwealth. Penn State's position as Pennsylvania's sole agricultural university is fundamental to our foundation, along with providing access to an affordable, top-flight education for our citizens and driving the Commonwealth's economy," Barron said in a statement. "If there is not quick action to restore funding for these vital programs, the 150-year-long partnership between Penn State and Pennsylvania will be forever changed."
"The dedicated faculty, staff, researchers and educators whose positions are at risk play a vital role in helping our state’s single-largest industry to compete on a national scale, Barron added. “Their work helps Pennsylvania’s farmers to increase efficiency and productivity, and helps the entire agricultural industry to respond swiftly to animal disease outbreaks, to address natural crises such as flooding and drought, to diagnose plant diseases that can threaten crops, and to respond to outbreaks of food-borne illness, to name just a few of many critical services."
“We are now vulnerable to potential loss of key people, and we are already seeing clear indications that other states are beginning to lure away vital faculty and staff talent,” he said.
Mr. Barron said standoff also could result in the elimination of 4-H and Master Gardener programs statewide. The university said it would affect about 92,000 members and some 9,500 volunteers statewide.
Next Wednesday, the leaders of Pitt, Temple and Lincoln universities, along with Penn State, are expected to go before the state Legislature to argue their case for their appropriations for 2016-17 budget -- still unsure if they will get aid for this year.
Bill Schackner: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1977 and on Twitter: @BschacknerPG.