By SUSAN JONES
Pitt is requesting a 6 percent increase in its appropriation from the state for fiscal year 2023-24, according to the Office of the Chief Financial Officer.
“The University is grateful for the legislature’s ongoing support that directly funds the in-state tuition discount for tens of thousands of Pennsylvania students and their families,” CFO Hari Sastry said in a statement. “This funding helps to ensure affordable access for Pennsylvanians to a world-class Pitt education and the expansion of programming that benefits the state.”
Last year, Pitt requested a 5.5 percent increase, after receiving flat funding over the previous two years. In February. Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal for 2022-23 contained a 5 percent increase for the state-related schools — Pitt, Penn State, Temple and Lincoln.
This year’s funding for the four schools got caught in a political battle that came down to the wire before lawmakers approved giving the schools the same amount as the previous two years. For Pitt, that number was $151.5 million.
Wolf later added $30 million from money that the state legislature appropriated to the governor’s office for “pandemic response.” Pitt received another $7.57 million, which was disbursed as grants of around $350 to in-state undergraduate and graduate students who are enrolled at least half time.
In asking for the 6 percent increase, Pitt cited several factors:
Pennsylvania’s students and families receive a tuition discount of around $15,000 annually in tuition savings over a four-year undergraduate career at Pitt. The commonwealth funds support 60 percent of this discount; Pitt covers the remaining 40 percent.
In fiscal year 2023, Pitt is slated to invest $286 million in student financial aid — an increase of $24 million from the prior year’s budget and up 47 percent compared to five years ago.
Despite facing inflation rates topping 9 percent and $215 million in costs and lost revenues due to COVID-19, the University’s average net tuition per student has grown by just 3 percent over the past five years.
In fiscal year 2021, the University generated more than $5.2 billion in economic impact to the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, supported more than 47,000 jobs statewide and generated more than $270 million in local taxes to the state and municipalities.
In February, the governor will submit his proposed budget to the legislature, which will hold hearings throughout February and March with various stakeholders, including the leaders of the state-related schools. The deadline to pass the budget is June 30, although lawmakers have sometimes failed to finish by that date, including this year.
The state-related universities are not funded through the omnibus budget bill. Instead, the legislature usually passes four separate funding bills — one for each institution. This year, though, the four were included in one bill, as part of an attempt to fight off efforts by conservative lawmakers to cut Pitt’s funding because of research done here using fetal tissues and other hot-button right wing issues, such as free speech on campus, classes on diversity and race, and vaccine mandates.
Penn State goes for big money
Pitt’s budget request pales in comparison to that sought by the largest state-related university — Penn State. The school’s Board of Trustees voted in September to request a 47.6 percent, or $115.2 million, increase in funding from the state. The money Penn State gets from the state goes toward lowering tuition for in-state students, just like it does at Pitt.
Penn State said in making the request that its per-student funding is lower than the other public institutions in the state and far below the national average. Penn State received $242.1 million from the state for 2022-23, before the extra pandemic-related funds. With about 43,000 undergraduates from Pennsylvania, that works out to about $5,600 per student.
Pitt, which received $151.5 million from the state, had 16,743 in-state undergrads in fall 2021, which equals $9,049 per student. Temple University receives $8,275 per Pennsylvania resident undergraduate student, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education receives funding of $8,378 per in-state undergraduate, according to figures collected by Penn State.
Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi, who started at the school in May, said in an announcement: “As Pennsylvania’s only land-grant university, we feel strongly that Penn State students and their families deserve as much funding per student as the other state-related universities in Pennsylvania. To support our students at a lower funding level than those at other institutions impacts our ability to maintain access to and affordability of a world-class Penn State degree for all qualified Pennsylvanians.”
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at email@example.com or 724-244-4042.
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