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Wolf budget includes more education funding

Public and state-related schools have had state funding cut from their budgets in the past few years.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget address on March 3 in Harrisburg revealed his plans for the state’s finances, including his pledge to increase state funding for higher education institutions with the expectation of a tuition freeze.

“In return for these increases, today I am calling on our institutions of higher education to freeze tuition, and I expect them to answer that call,” Wolf said in the address, which was also streamed online through his office and the Harrisburg Patriot-News’ website.

Wolf said he will roll back 50 percent of the cuts to higher education funding made by the Corbett administration.

For Temple – which had received $139.9 million the past three years – the total appropriation would be $155.3 million, an 11 percent increase worth $15.4 million.

“We are grateful for the governor’s investment in public higher education in Pennsylvania,” President Theobald said in a university press release. “The restored funds in the governor’s proposal – if approved by the General Assembly – will go directly to helping us hold down tuition and recruit the best faculty.”

Temple had requested a 5 percent increase in funding, as The Temple News reported in September. Other schools, like the Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh, had requested as much as 6 and 14.7 percent, respectively.

However, Penn State’s funding will see the biggest increase in both percent and in dollar form, according to the Patriot-News’ website, pennlive.com. The 23.2 percent increase would increase the appropriation to $263.7 million.

Temple has not frozen tuition since 2012, when it was learned that the appropriation would not be decreased to less than $139.9 million. But as costs inflate, the appropriation is worth less and less to the school.

Tuition increases were held to an average of 2.4 percent over the past three years, according to the press release. In July, the Board of Trustees voted to increase tuition by about 3.7 percent – a $600 increase – while Penn State increased tuition 2.73 percent. Temple had also cut $110 million from its budget to cope with the cuts.

Dormitory and meal-plan rates are also expected to increase in the next few years, officials have said.

While other schools have said they would use a funding increase for a specific project – Penn State has said it would use the funding for improving the Hershey Medical Center – Temple officials said the appropriation would be used to keep tuition down and fund the operating budget, 15 percent of which is the appropriation.

Wolf said he would increase revenue to fund education through a severance tax on natural gas extraction and closing corporate tax loopholes. Much of his budget address focused on K-12 education, but he also mentioned that he was increasing funding for the state’s community colleges by $15 million.

Joe Brandt can be reached at jbrandt@temple.edu, or 215.204.7419 on Twitter @JBrandt_TU.

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