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September 30, 2010

University delays FY12 state budget request

Although three of Pennsylvania’s four state-related universities have submitted their appropriation requests to the state Department of Education for the upcoming fiscal year, Pitt received an extension beyond the Sept. 24 deadline. Paul A. Supowitz, vice chancellor for governmental relations, said the University likely will submit its request before early next week.

Supowitz said it’s not unusual for the University to request an extension. “We just wanted a little more time,” he said.

The appropriation request, usually made in late September, is an early step in the state budget process. After state departments submit their budgets, Pennsylvania’s governor typically announces his proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year on the first Tuesday in February. House and Senate appropriations committees then hold hearings on the budget during February and March before a budget bill is introduced. Final passage of a new state budget is due before the July 1 start of the fiscal year.

Funding for the state-related universities was held flat for FY11, which began July 1. Excluding medical school funding, Pitt’s FY11 appropriation totaled $168 million, including $7.5 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds.

Penn State’s appropriation was $333.86 million, including $15.8 million in ARRA funds; Temple’s was $172.7 million, including $7.76 million in ARRA funds and Lincoln’s totaled $13.78 million, including $159,000 in ARRA funds.

Under the current law, ARRA funding for higher education is set to expire this fiscal year, fueling worries about a federal “funding cliff” in the coming fiscal year.

Penn State is asking for a 5 percent ($17.2 million) increase in commonwealth support that would bring its appropriation to $364.2 million in FY12. With that level of support, Penn State said it would hold tuition increases for Pennsylvania students to 2.9 percent at regional campuses and 4.9 percent at the main campus. Tuition for out-of-state students would rise 2.9 percent at regional campuses and 3.5 percent on the main campus.

A Temple spokesperson said the school’s request for a 6.4 percent increase for FY12 would restore its appropriation to the FY09 enacted amount. Temple was allocated $175.5 million for FY09 but midyear budget cuts ordered by Gov. Edward G. Rendell took back 6 percent from the state-related universities’ appropriations.

Lincoln University President Ivory Nelson told the University Times his institution has asked for the same amount it requested last year: $26 million.

That would represent an 89 percent increase over FY11, given that the school’s appropriation of $13.78 million was only slightly more than half the requested amount.

Nelson said given that the FY11 appropriation didn’t improve from the previous year, he expects little or no increase for FY12, especially given the bleak state revenue picture.

However, he noted, a new administration will be in place in Harrisburg for the upcoming budget, making it difficult to predict what may be in store for higher education funding.

In a Sept. 22 University Update, Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg counted state funding among the economic worries that Pitt faces.

“Despite the many victories of the past year, though, many of our most serious challenges have persisted. For example, the city’s pension problems, which led to the ‘tuition tax’ proposal, have not been solved,” he stated.

“Even worse, the city’s pension problems are dwarfed by the state’s pension problems, and the state’s budget challenges go far beyond underfunded pensions, with some experts predicting that total short-term shortfalls will be measured in the billions of dollars. At least under existing law, this is the last year of federal stimulus funding, which means that we soon will confront what has come to be known as the federal ‘funding cliff.’ Public transportation problems recently have become the focus of real concern, particularly in this region,” Nordenberg stated.

“Most obviously, we have not moved beyond troubled times. In fact, it seems likely that even more daunting challenges may await us. To take just the single most obvious example, the federal funding cliff could present very serious difficulties, as could almost any of these other issues, with possible consequences becoming even more severe if some combination of them were to hit us at once,” he stated, offering optimism in recognition of Pitt’s success in meeting past challenges.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature,Volume 43 Issue 3

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