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April 30, 1998

Ridge expected to sign Pitt's $158.2 million appropriation next week

The state General Assembly last week approved a $158.2 million appropriation for Pitt for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

A spokesperson for Gov. Tom Ridge said Ridge plans to sign the appropriation into law early next week.

Except for a $45,000 increase over the governor's recommendation for rural education outreach, the Pitt appropriation approved by the House and Senate is identical to the one Ridge proposed in February.

It would increase the University's funding by nearly $5 million, or 3.28 percent, and include the following line items: $140.79 million in educational and general funds; $338,000 for services to disadvantaged students; $6.57 million for the School of Medicine; $1.08 million for the Dental Clinic; $8.1 million for the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic; $523,000 for the Services for Teens at Risk program; $263,000 for the Center for Public Health Practice, and $525,000 for rural education outreach.

In addition to approving $158.2 million through the non-preferred appropriations bill, the General Assembly voted to fund the following Pitt projects:

* $500,000 for distance education, through the state's Technology Investment Program.

* $150,000 for the law school's Elder Law Clinic, under the general heading of legal advocacy for older Pennsylvanians.

* $200,000 awarded through the state Department of Education for rural education outreach, to supplement the $525,000 awarded in Pitt's non-preferred bill.

* $2 million for the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, a joint project of Pitt, Carnegie Mellon University and Westinghouse Corp. The amount equals the center's current year allocation but is double the governor's recommendation.

* $50,000 for Pitt's Ethnic Heritage Studies Center.

* $600,000 for the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Center.

* $56,000 for the Cleft Palate Center.

The General Assembly also approved money for several higher education programs at amounts recommended by Gov. Ridge. Funds will be distributed among Pitt and other eligible institutions. The programs include: Higher Education Technology Grants/Link-to-Learn (total: $7 million) Now in its third year, this program funds test projects and provides grants to faculty experts on technology infrastructures. "Although it is as yet unclear as to what use this funding will be put in FY 1999, there has been considerable discussion about giving a greater portion of this appropriation directly to higher education institutions," according to a summary of the programs written by Pitt Governmental Relations staff.

Higher Education Equipment Grants ($6 million) Pitt will get $427,000 from this appropriation this year, and its share should be roughly the same next year, according to Governmental Relations.

Engineering Equipment Grants ($1 million) Pitt's share should be about $76,000 next year, Governmental Relations staff said.

In its budget request last fall, Pitt's administration argued for a 3.5 percent appropriation hike next year plus $7.7 million for four new initiatives aimed at making Pennsylvanians more competitive economically: instructional technology improvements, laboratory modernization, infrastructure modernization, and programs to ensure that Pitt graduates can compete for jobs.

It's unclear to what extent Pitt's proposed initiatives overlap with the state's higher education technology and equipment grant programs.

Based on its original funding request, the University administration proposed hiking tuition by 3.5 percent next fall and increasing the budget for faculty and staff compensation (salaries plus benefits) likewise by 3.5 percent.

Pitt spokesperson Ken Service said it's too early to tell whether the University could meet those goals under the General Assembly-approved budget.

University administrators plan to present a final Pitt budget proposal to the Board of Trustees at the board's June 25 meeting.

— Bruce Steele

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