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September 26, 1996

Pitt FY98 request to state has 4.5% hike in tuition, compensation

The pool of money for Pitt faculty and staff salaries and fringe benefits would increase by 4.5 percent next summer, if the state government accepts a fiscal year 1998 funding request that the University's administration submitted to the state Department of Education this week.

The request also proposes hiking tuition next fall by no more than 4.5 percent, the same percentage increase as in fall 1996.

Based on the 4.5 percent increases in tuition and compensation, Pitt is asking the state for $163.431 million in FY 1998. That would be an 8.9 percent increase over the $150.065 million that the University expects to get during the current fiscal year.

The University's request covers nine existing budget line items and three new initiatives.

The existing line items include: * Educational and general funds — $140.169 million, which would be a 6 percent increase over the current appropriation.

E&G revenue forms the core of Pitt's operating budget. The University's budget request notes that state money and tuition dollars are the two most important sources of E&G funds. Currently, the state provides 37.4 percent of E&G, while tuition and fees comprise 49.9 percent. "Ten years ago, the Common-wealth's share of our educational and general revenue was close to 45 percent. This trend means that our students have increasingly been asked to shoulder a greater portion of the cost of their education," the document states.

* Services for disadvantaged students — $340,000 (a 5.9 percent increase).

Of the $321,000 that the state appropriated to Pitt this year for disadvantaged students, $295,838 was awarded to 11 schools, three administrative units and four regional campuses for minority student recruitment and retention. "Most of the remaining funds were used by the Provost's office to provide emergency financial aid for students and to support other institutional efforts," according to the funding request.

"Continued Commonwealth support is essential if we hope to continue and expand these efforts," the request states.

* Distance education network — $885,000 (41 percent less than the $1.5 million that Pitt is set to receive this year through a capital budget appropriation).

Pitt is seeking $4 million over four years to develop a technology and telecommunications infrastructure for distance learning. The network will include six distance-ed classrooms and two conference sites in Pittsburgh (currently, the Pittsburgh campus has two such classrooms), two Johnstown campus classrooms (one, currently) and one classroom each in Bradford, Greensburg and Titusville, which currently have temporary sites.

* School of Medicine — $6.613 million (a 6 percent increase).

Pitt's funding request recounts the school's recent achievements in teaching and research, including progress in implementing a new primary care curriculum. "Pitt is committed to providing the highest quality medical training at an affordable cost to Pennsylvania students. The Commonwealth appropriation is essential if we are to meet this objective," the request states.

* Dental clinic — $1.092 million (a 6 percent increase).

According to Pitt's request, the additional funds are needed to maintain and improve the quality of the facility's clinical, community outreach and dentist training activities. Among other facts, the document notes that Pitt's dental clinic is one of the few in western Pennsylvania that serves patients who are indigent, handicapped, HIV-infected or live in underserved rural counties. "Last year, indigent persons and people with disabilities accounted for nearly 18 percent of the more than 63,000 patient visits to the clinic and received nearly $860,000 of dental care through fee reductions," according to the funding request.

* Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic — $8.155 million (a 6 percent hike).

During the 1996 fiscal year, the request points out, Western Psych responded to more than 32,972 inquiries for clinical information and scheduled assessments, and provided medical, laboratory, psychiatric and case management services to some 16,205 individuals, nearly 4,011 of whom were admitted into specialized inpatient programs.

The document cites other patient care, education and research activities at Western Psych and argues that increased state funding is needed to continue fulfilling the institute's mission.

* Services for Teens at Risk suicide prevention center — $527,000 (a 6 percent increase).

The budget request describes various center activities, including ongoing services to teenagers who lost friends and family members aboard USAir Flight 427 and in recent bus and HOV lane accidents. The center also provides counseling to schools when students are killed and seeks to rebuild relations between youth and local police, among other services.

"As the center enters its eleventh year, it plans to continue these efforts and to develop new ways of training community health staff and in treating depression and suicidal behavior. STAR-Center remains dependent upon Commonwealth support to offer these unique and important services to Pennsylvanians," according to the request.

* Center for Public Health Practice — $275,000 (a 10 percent hike).

The center serves as a link between Pitt's Graduate School of Public Health (Pennsylvania's only fully accredited public health school) and public health practitioners. "As the center enters its third year," the request states, "it will focus its activities on health needs assessment, identifying what public health skills will be required in the health professional workforce as the nation's health care system shifts to a managed care paradigm and maximizing the use of distance learning technologies to deliver continuing education and training programs throughout Pennsylvania." * Rural education outreach — $375,000 (25 percent).

According to the budget request, the funds will help the Bradford campus to expand its education and training programs. The request points out that Pennsylvania has the largest rural population of any state, and that "the single largest rural area of the Commonwealth is nearly the size of the state of Connecticut, yet it is served by only one institution of higher education — the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford." The University also is asking the state for $2 million for deferred maintenance, $1.75 million for laboratory modernization and $1.25 million for student life initiatives.

According to a recent assessment, the cost of upgrading all Pitt buildings to acceptable contemporary standards would be nearly $274 million for infrastructure improvements, with an additional $187 million needed for program costs. Pitt's administration plans to spend $6 million over the next four years to meet its most critical deferred maintenance needs, and will ask the state to contribute $2 million annually for each of those years.

"As with deferred maintenance projects, renovation of our laboratory facilities has too frequently been delayed as a result of limited resources," the budget request states. "The number of students who must have access to these facilities, coupled with the level of annual federal funding that is dependent upon the condition of our laboratories [approximately $250 million annually], demands that Pitt and the Commonwealth make a stronger investment in this area." Regarding student life improvements, Pitt's budget request notes: "Today's students are more discerning consumers. In choosing a university, they are looking for a campus that is physically attractive, safe, technologically modern and which provides them with adequate recreational and extracurricular opportunities. Urban universities face physical and financial challenges in their attempt to meet these demands.

"And yet, it is important to address these needs. The excellence of our institution is dependent, to a large degree, on the quality of our student body. If we hope to continue attracting top notch students and providing Pennsylvania with well-rounded, well-educated graduates, we must remain competitive in all aspects of student life." Chancellor Mark Nordenberg, in his introduction to the funding request, summarized recent Pitt accomplishments and thanked Pennsylvania lawmakers for their support of the University. But that support is declining, Nordenberg pointed out.

"Public university tuitions in Pennsylvania are already among the highest in the nation," the chancellor wrote. "In terms of state support, we are operating at a significant competitive disadvantage when compared to other states and other institutions. The Commonwealth continues to rank among the bottom five states in terms of per capita support for higher education. Our public peers in the Association of American Universities, on average, receive support for nearly 36 percent of their expenditures from their states compared to the 18 percent Pitt receives from the Commonwealth." Nordenberg called on the state to begin awarding appropriations to universities based on merit. "Demonstrating excellence, however impressive, never has earned budgetary increases" for Pennsylvania's state-funded universities, he wrote.

The chancellor noted that the state's general fund budget has increased by 37 percent since the 1990 fiscal year, but that state support for higher education rose by only 15 percent during those years.

"In the very recent past, declining levels of Commonwealth support have led to salary freezes, job cuts and decisions to discontinue certain programs," Nordenberg wrote. "Over a more extended period, particularly because these comparative shortfalls have affected both the capital and operating budgets, they have required that we shoulder comparatively high levels of debt service in order to ensure both campus integrity and program quality.

"Speaking more generally, they have placed us at a disadvantage in our competition with public research universities from other states. They also represent a real impediment as we attempt to meet an expanding agenda of responsibilities to the Commonwealth and its citizens." Pitt's funding request is the first formal step toward setting the University's state appropriation. Pennsylvania legislators and the governor's office will consider Pitt's request, along with those of other state-funded institutions, and try to come up with an FY 1998 state budget by the end of June.

— Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 29 Issue 3

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