Gov. Edward G. Rendell’s June 26 budget proposal would reduce Pitt’s fiscal year 2010 commonwealth appropriation by $31 million over FY09’s appropriation if it is enacted ($11.35 million from a 6 percent reduction in FY09 and $20.5 million in additional cuts). A cut that large would have serious consequences. To make up the lost revenue, Pitt’s administration would have to take some drastic measures: raise tuition by at least 12 percent; reduce employee compensation by at least 6 percent; cut programs and services, or some combination of these measures.
I have confidence the administration will make prudent choices in deciding how to deal with the cut if it does occur. I would expect tuition increases, freezes in programs and hiring, and minimal faculty and staff layoffs.
There still is a chance that most of the $31 million cut could be prevented by getting the governor to restore Pennsylvania’s state-related universities to the state’s application for federal fiscal stabilization funds. Gov. Rendell currently is claiming that Pennsylvania’s state-related universities are not public institutions, and thus has removed them from the state’s application for federal fiscal stabilization funds. However, in earlier applications, he included these schools as public universities. If Gov. Rendell reverts to his original proposal, Pitt stands to receive $10.244 million in federal stimulus money; to qualify, the governor must promise to maintain FY06 funding levels for Pitt and other state-related universities in FY09, FY10 and FY11, which means he could not make the additional $20.5 million cut to Pitt.
Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg, Vice Chancellor Paul Supowitz and the presidents of Pennsylvania’s other state-related universities all have written to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan requesting that Pennsylvania’s Stabilization Fund application not be approved until it is amended to include the state-related universities because they are public universities.
Faculty, staff and students can assist in this effort by writing to their state legislators protesting Rendell’s exclusion of Pitt and the other state-related universities from the state’s application for federal fiscal stabilization funds. Our exclusion will hurt our students, our faculty and staff, and our region because it likely will result in higher tuition and loss of jobs. Contact Pitt’s Governmental Relations office (412/624-7755) or visit www.govtrel.pitt.edu for more information.
One must wonder about Gov. Rendell’s priorities when he denies federal stabilization funds to Pennsylvania’s state-related universities and proposes large additional funding cuts for these schools. The federal funds would mitigate the need for tuition increases for in-state students at Pennsylvania’s state-related universities. Instead, Rendell prefers to force large tuition increases upon these students and their families.
It won’t be the first time Rendell has caused tuition increases at Pennsylvania’s public research universities. He repeatedly has proposed inadequate annual commonwealth appropriations for these schools, causing them to raise their tuition — an action for which he then criticizes them.
You do not need to be a math wizard to figure out there is an inverse relationship between the size of a university’s tuition increase and the size of its state appropriation, but Rendell does not seem to get it — or many other things about public research universities, such as the fact that Pitt is a major driver of the economy in western Pennsylvania. Whatever Rendell’s priorities are, high quality public higher education for Pennsylvania’s citizens clearly is not among them.
John J. Baker is immediate past president of the University Senate and chair of the Senate’s budget policies committee.