'Flat' funding concerns Pitt, PSU officials
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HARRISBURG -- Financial pressure to increase student tuition at Pitt and Penn State will grow if state lawmakers adopt Gov. Ed Rendell's proposal to "flat fund'' the state-related universities in fiscal 2010-11, university leaders said Tuesday.
Penn State President Graham Spanier told a House committee that he needs $331 million in state funding for the new fiscal year, which starts July 1. Mr. Rendell has proposed $318 million for Penn State next year, the same amount it's getting this fiscal year.
In addition, Penn State is getting $15.8 million in federal stimulus funds in fiscal 2009-10, raising the total of government funds to $333.8 million. The same amount of stimulus funding would continue for fiscal 2010-11.
Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg is seeking $176 million from the state for fiscal 2010-11, up from $168 million this year. Pitt will also get $7.5 million in stimulus funds in each year. Mr. Rendell's budget proposal would keep Pitt at $168 million next year.
Mr. Spanier said that in recent years, there has been no increase in state financial support for the four state-related universities, which also include Temple and Lincoln in southeast Pennsylvania. This puts increased pressure on student tuition, since costs for salaries, utilities and other expenses continue to rise.
The universities said they have two major sources of revenue, student tuition plus state aid, so if that aid stays flat, tuition is more likely to rise.
"We want to keep our universities affordable and keep education high quality," Mr. Spanier said. Tuition for the 2010-11 school year will be based in large part on how much the universities get from the state, and that should be known by July -- unless the new state budget is delayed again, as it was for 101 days in 2009, when legislators and Mr. Rendell couldn't agree. Tuition bills for the fall semester will be sent out in mid-July.
Pitt and Penn State froze employees' salaries last year to stem rising costs. "That was painful," Mr. Nordenberg said. Officials said they can't keep doing that or they will lose valued professors and other staff members to other schools.
Competition among universities "for high-performing faculty members remains intense," Mr. Nordenberg said. Penn State will have to trim 54 jobs from its agriculture extension service if the governor's "flat funding'' proposal is adopted, Mr. Spanier said.
Also Tuesday, the House appropriations panel heard from Chancellor John Cavanaugh of the State System of Higher Education, which includes 14 state-owned schools, including Slippery Rock and Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
A $444.5 million budget for fiscal 2010-11 has been proposed for the state system, the same amount it got this year.
Mr. Cavanaugh said labor costs make up about 73 percent of the operating budget, but declined to discuss whether the system is talking to employees about cost-saving measures such as salary freezes or incentives for early retirement.
"It wouldn't be appropriate to go into details," Mr. Cavanaugh said.
First Published February 24, 2010 12:00 am