HARRISBURG -- Gov. Tom Corbett announced this afternoon he will propose level funding for higher education while the leaders of state and state-related universities pledged to keep tuition increases as low as possible.
Mr. Corbett said his budget address on Tuesday will include $1.58 billion in funding for higher education.
Universities received flat funding this year after legislators undid $245 million in proposed cuts. In exchange for their restorations, Penn State University, the University of Pittsburgh and Temple University agreed to limit any tuition increase this year to the consumer price index.
"All of us here share the view that responsible pricing of tuition is essential," Mr. Corbett said. "We are all working together to make higher education in Pennsylvania both excellent and affordable."
Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre and chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said anyone wondering if level-funding is cause for celebration should consider that Pennsylvania faces cost increases beyond expected revenue growth next year in areas including Medicaid and debt service.
"To come here today and say despite that structural deficit we are still going to commit to be able to fully fund higher education at the level we did last year is a significant commitment by the governor and the General Assembly," Mr. Corman said.
In November, an advisory commission recommended the state level-fund higher education next year and tie future increases to the success of post-secondary institutions in keeping their programs accessible and affordable. The commission was made up of leaders in business and higher education, including Mark Nordenberg, chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh.
At the announcement this afternoon, Mr. Nordenberg thanked the governor for launching the budget season "in ways that are consistent" with the commission's recommendations.
"That report really does provide us with a constructive path moving forward," he said.
The commission called for the development over the next several years of performance scorecards for each sector of higher education. Measurements could include tuition growth, increases in access to under-served groups and responsiveness to workforce needs.
Education Secretary Ron Tomalis said the performance matrices will require time -- and "a very robust discussion I'm sure with the Legislature" -- to put in place.
Karen Langley: firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-787-2141