Gov. pledges level aid for state universities
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HARRISBURG -- Gov. Tom Corbett said Friday that in return for a pledge by university leaders to keep tuition increases as low as possible, his upcoming budget proposal will fund higher education at the same level as the past two years.
Maintaining the state appropriation for another year means Mr. Corbett's budget address on Tuesday will include $1.58 billion for higher education.
The four state-related universities -- Pitt, Penn State, Temple and Lincoln -- and the 14 state-owned 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, Temple and Lincoln 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, Pitt's chancellor.
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.
First Published February 2, 2013 12:00 am