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September 27, 2001

Pitt requests $186 million state appropriation

Tuition increases for Pitt in-state under- graduates would not exceed 4 percent next fall — the lowest tuition hike here in three years — if Pennsylvania lawmakers grant the University the $186.1 million state appropriation it's requesting for fiscal year 2003.

Pitt also proposes increasing the faculty and staff salary pool by at least 4 percent. University officials say Pitt needs that increase to remain competitive in recruiting and retaining high-quality faculty.

In Pitt's budget request, submitted to Harrisburg Sept. 20, Chancellor Mark Nordenberg noted that faculty salaries here "still lag significantly" behind the median for the Association of American Universities (AAU), a group of prominent North American research universities that includes Pitt.

Last year, salaries of full professors at the Pittsburgh campus trailed the AAU median by $5,700, associates by $3,600 and assistants by $4,200. Faculty librarians' salaries trailed the AAU/Association of Research Libraries median by $7,500. The gaps between average salaries at Pitt's regional campuses and AAU peers ranged from $4,500 to $10,200.

Pitt's proposed 4 percent tuition hike for next fall would raise undergraduate tuition for state resident undergraduates from $6,902 to $7,178 a year. (The state Department of Education does not require Pitt and other state-funded universities to include information in their appropriation requests on possible tuition hikes for non-Pennsylvanians and/or graduate and professional school students.) Pitt officials say that if they don't get the state funding they're requesting, they may be forced to raise tuition by more than 4 percent next year, and the salary budget by less than 4 percent.

At this time last year, Pitt was proposing to increase its salary budget by 5 percent for the current fiscal year, and pledging to hold tuition hikes to 5 percent this fall if the University received its requested 5.8 increase in state funding.

But the University's less-than-hoped-for state appropriation (0.6 percent) resulted in a 4 percent salary pool increase and a tuition hike of 7.5 percent, Pitt's largest in 13 years.

"This was not a comfortable or easy decision," Chancellor Nordenberg wrote of last year's tuition increase. "We share the concerns of parents, students and legislators over the rising rates of tuition. We have done much to streamline our operations and to cut costs."

University Senate President James Cassing supported the proposed 4 percent tuition hike. "It's a very reasonable number, roughly in line with what the inflation rate is expected to be," he said.

"I think our tuition is a fabulous value for the money. The University has plowed a lot of money back into improving the quality of campus life for our students. I just hope the state provides the funding support we're requesting. You can't run a university without adequate resources," Cassing said.

Phil Wion, chairperson of the Senate's budget policies committee, said his committee plans to discuss Pitt's budget request at noon tomorrow, Sept. 28, in the William Pitt Union's Dining Room B. He declined to comment prior to that discussion. The committee has recommended a minimum 5 percent increase in next year's salary pool.

Penn State has proposed raising its tuition by 7.84 percent next fall, Wion noted.

Pitt's FY 2003 appropriation request is $7.7 million, or 4.3 percent, higher than its current base appropriation. The University is asking for increases of 6.5 percent in its educational and general line (the core of Pitt's operating budget) and 4 percent for other line items.

"Our top priority for FY 2003 is to secure an inflationary increase of 6.5 percent (when cumulated over the past two years) in our educational and general line," Chancellor Nordenberg wrote in Pitt's appropriation request document. That sentence was the only one in his 22-page "Chancellor's Statement," not counting section headings, to be printed in boldface.

"We are most grateful for the support we have received from the governor and the General Assembly," the chancellor wrote. "But if we are to maintain and enhance our excellence, and if we are to continue to partner successfully with Pennsylvania to 'invent the future,' we must have a sustained and adequate investment from the Commonwealth, and particularly an investment in our core budget."

Pitt's FY 2003 appropriation request asks the state for:

* $161.4 million for educational and general purposes.

* $369,000 to recruit and retain disadvantaged students.

* $7.18 million for the School of Medicine.

* $1.19 million for the dental clinic.

* $8.85 million for Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic.

* $571,000 for Western Psych's Services for Teens at Risk program.

* $288,000 for the Center for Public Health Practice.

* $1.05 million for rural education outreach.

* $2.6 million for information technology.

* $2.6 million for laboratory improvements and equipment.

— Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 34 Issue 3

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