By SUSAN JONES
After two years of requesting and receiving no funding increase for the state-related universities, Gov. Tom Wolf in his budget address on Feb. 8 requested a five percent increase in state funding for Pitt, Penn State, Temple and Lincoln universities.
The governor’s plan would raise general funding for Pitt from $151.5 million to $159 million, but the plan has a long way to go before it’s a reality. The budget proposal also includes a five percent increase for Pitt’s Rural Education Outreach to $3.5 million. Pitt last received a budget increase from the state — 2 percent — in 2019.
“Governor Tom Wolf’s budget proposal includes significant increases in higher education spending, including for the University of Pittsburgh and our peer state-related universities,” Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said in a statement. “We appreciate the governor’s support, which is a great first step and kicks off the formal budget process for the state.”
Pitt’s budget presentation, which is submitted to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, is not yet complete. In the past two years, Pitt has requested a five percent increase, but received flat funding. Chancellor Gallagher and the leaders of the other three state-related universities will appear at appropriation committee hearings on March 3 in the Senate and March 8 in the House.
The governor’s budget proposal — which also includes an historic increase of 15 percent or $75 million for the 14 state-owned universities — must make its way through the negotiation process in the General Assembly before a final budget is proposed and voted on toward the end of June. Pitt sets its budget, including any pay raises, after the state budget is passed.
In October, Gallagher told Senate Council that he expected the state budget process for fiscal year 2022-23 to be difficult. At a legislative hearing earlier in October, members of two state House subcommittees discussed ways to modify how the state-related universities receive funding and how much, including a proposal to redirect the money to a voucher program that would allow families to use it at the school of their choice. No action was taken on the proposal.
“I think all the signals are pointing to this being a rough budget cycle,” Gallagher said in October. “There’s a lot of dynamics that are making it that way. Some are budgetary, some are other issues unrelated to the budget that are playing out but that touch higher education. Some of that has to do with the political cycle where things are at.”
Gallagher added that he anticipates that this budgetary cycle will require Pitt and other state-related universities to advocate for strong state support.
“This will be a year where support for the state-related universities, including the University of Pittsburgh, will be something we’re going to have to work hard to remind folks about why that support is important and how it works at the University of Pittsburgh,” Gallagher said.
All the money Pitt receives in general appropriations from the commonwealth is applied to reducing tuition for Pennsylvania students. “This funding directly and dramatically lowers tuition costs for in-state students,” Pitt’s Chief Financial Officer Hari Sastry told the House subcommittees in October. He pointed specifically at the regional campuses which have the largest difference in tuition between in-state and out-of-state students.
In fiscal year 2020-21, Pitt provided $284 million in tuition discounts for Pennsylvania students. The state’s appropriation accounted for around 60 percent of that discount; Pitt made up the difference.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-244-4042.
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