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February 18, 2016

Wolf proposes 5% Pitt hike for FY17

The University has yet to receive its state appropriation for the current fiscal year, but Gov. Tom Wolf is proposing a 5 percent increase for Pitt in fiscal year 2017.

The governor’s $32.73 billion general fund budget, unveiled Feb. 9, includes a 5 percent increase for higher education, which would mean an additional $7.16 million in Pitt’s general appropriation. Wolf left academic medical center funding flat in his proposed budget.

The plan would raise Pitt’s general appropriation to $150.35 million, still shy of Pitt’s requested $168 million in FY17 general support. (See Oct. 15 University Times.)

Kenneth Service, vice chancellor for communications, stated, “We appreciate the governor recognizing how important the University of Pittsburgh and other state-related universities are to the commonwealth. At the same time, we need an immediate resolution to the state’s budget impasse, as we are still awaiting funding for the current fiscal year.”

Partisan disagreements have left the state’s budget for the current fiscal year incomplete. In December Wolf line-item-vetoed parts of a Republican-proposed FY16 budget, approving $23.4 billion in state spending that included nothing for the state-related schools.

Because Pitt isn’t fully under state control, its state funding comes mainly through a nonpreferred appropriation, which requires a two-thirds majority for passage. Its appropriation bill fell short in a Jan. 11 House vote, leaving the University without an anticipated $143.19 million in FY16 funding. (See Jan. 21 University Times.)

Appropriations for the state-related universities in part provide funds for a tuition discount for in-state students.

Student governments at the state-related schools have launched social media and letter-writing campaigns and have reactivated the Pennsylvania Association of State-related Students (PASS), which was formed in 2010 in response to Gov. Tom Corbett’s cuts to the state’s higher education funding.

In a Feb. 10 letter to Wolf, Pitt Student Government Board President Nasreen Harun said the delay in approving Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency funding has forced Pitt to front $20 million to cover PHEAA grants for underprivileged students, funds she said “should have been invested toward other institutional and educational goals.

“As the state budget impasse continues, the General Assembly and the Governor’s Office risk leaving the University with no choice but to implement high tuition hikes in order to make ends meet, needlessly jeopardizing current and future educational opportunities for Pennsylvania residents.”

Hers is among PASS leaders’ letters posted at

Students at the state-related schools joined in a Feb. 11 “social media day of action,” including tweets using the hashtag #passit and letter-writing campaigns directed at the governor and other elected leaders.

At the same time, Paul Supowitz, vice chancellor for Community and Governmental Relations, and Jeff Gleim, associate vice chancellor and executive director of the Pitt Alumni Association, called on Pitt Advocates supporters to contact the governor and their state legislators and to use social media and letters to the editor in support of Pitt funding.

“Now more than ever, it is absolutely critical that our elected representatives hear from their constituents on the necessity of passing these funding bills. It is imperative that Pitt’s funding be released so that Pennsylvania students are not the innocent victims of the lengthy budget impasse,” they said in their Feb. 11 letter.

Supowitz told the University Times it may be easy to overlook the fact that Pitt still hasn’t received its appropriation. “We’re trying to push the information out to our constituencies and encourage them to weigh in.” The longer Pitt goes without a state appropriation, “the larger the risk there won’t be one,” he said.

FY17 budget hearings begin next week, with the state-related universities scheduled to testify March 2 before House and Senate appropriations committees.

The General Assembly won’t reconvene in voting sessions until March 14, leaving little opportunity for a resolution prior to the March 22 Pitt Day in Harrisburg.

This year’s visits to legislators will focus on the lack of funding, Supowitz said. Faculty, staff, students and alumni are being encouraged to attend the daylong advocacy event. Bus transportation is available.

Registration forms and sample advocacy resources are posted at

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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