Declining state appropriations have resulted in a 16 percent tuition increase over two years.
Over the summer, Temple’s operating budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year was reduced by $36 million, while tuition increased over $1,100, to fill a gap left by a decrease of 19 percent in state funding. Still, as another deadline for appropriation requests looms, the univeristy is reminded that this decline in funding isn’t a one-year event.
Corbett’s original proposal to cut public higher education funding by 50 percent was part of a plan to help balance Pennsylvania’s multibillion-dollar spending gap.
While news of the 19 percent cut, which left Temple to receive $139.9 million from the commonwealth, came as good news in comparison to the the proposed cut, the unexpected tuition increase whip-lashed some students who had to scramble to find another loan, like junior Jimmy McGarvey.
“I don’t like the fact that the people making these decisions are out of college and have their careers,” the secondary education and French major said after leaving the Bursar’s Office.
McGarvey had to take another loan out to pay the extra $1,172.
“There’s a lot of kids putting themselves through college, and I don’t like the fact that [Harrisburg doesn’t] understand how difficult it is,” McGarvey said.
State legislators ultimately reached an agreement during the summer that reduced the subsidies it provides for its four state-related universities’ by 19 percent.
As a result, Penn State tuition for in-state students increased by 4.9 percent, or about $700 dollars. Officials from the University of Pittsburgh increased the school’s tuition by 8.5 percent for in-state students.
Temple increased its tuition more than any other state-related university in the state: By 10 percent this year, on top of raising it 5.9 percent last year, although its tuition remains one of the most affordable in the state.
“To go up one to maybe two percent is OK, but 10 percent is just crazy,” McGarvey said.
An almost 16 percent increase over two years makes Temple’s tuition nearly $13,000 for the coming year, double the $6,397 national average for tuition at four-year public schools, according to the College Affordability and Transparency lists by the U.S. Department of Education, but less than Penn State’s tuition, which is $15,124.
Meanwhile, tuition for out-of-state students increased by 2.8 percent, or $1,170, to $22,832.
“The funding we receive from the commonwealth helps us to make in-state tuition lower,” said Ray Betzner, director of university communications, noting the tuition gap between state and out-of-state students is shrinking.
McGarvey said there are other options Temple can take instead of throwing the state’s budget problems on the backs of students.
“The gen-ed program is pretty much a total waste of time,” he said.
Istvan Varkonyi, director of general education, said the university has “absolutely no plans” to cut any part of the program, noting that seven out of 10 students change their majors while at Temple.
College is also a business, and Bruce Rader, vice president of the Temple association of university professionals, said the economics of the situation say exactly that.
“A raise in tuition in any place, if you look at supply and demand, would exclude some people who can’t afford it,” he said.
However, Betzner said an additional $6.8 million was added into financial aid.
To deal with the cuts, Rader said there are practical measures Temple can take.
“I know at least some people in the business school who’s contracts weren’t renewed. They’ll probably increase class sizes and that kind of stuff, but there weren’t many choices left because it was so close to when tuition was due,” Rader said.
Betzner said most cuts came from the “administrative side and not academic side,” in an effort to “try to preserve as much as the academic experience as possible.”
Officials cut $2.3 million from the Office of the President and $960,000 from the athletic deparment, among a slew of other scalebacks in the operating budget.
Officials also reduced the budgets of every school and college within Temple between $179,568 and $2,271,750, except for three. The Kornberg School of Dentistry, College of Health Professionals & Social Work and School of Tourism and Hospitality increased by $949,819, $403,921 and $6,000, respectively.
“Each department [was] given targets they had to meet,” Betzner said, referencing the changes in the schools’ cuts.
McGarvey said students should have a more vocal role in the tuition discussion.
Temple Student Government Student Body President Colin Saltry visited Harrsiburg three times last year to persuade legislators to support higher education.
“This governor and the legislature are not big fans of government spending, but that translates to better jobs,” Saltry said.
Kenneth Lawrence, senior vice president of government, community and public affairs, said student voices are a vital part when lobbying for more appropriations.
He said that while he can’t predict whether Temple will have to battle another appropriations decrease in 2012, more students should get involved in Harrisburg by joining the Temple Advocates Legislative Outreach Network, or TALON.
“We’re thankful for the help legislators gave us and the support students have contributed,” he said. “We have students who require [financial] assistance, and we value anything the state can do to help.”
The university will send its appropriations request this fall, and the governor’s proposed budget will be announced in the spring. Between the announcement and the state’s deadline to finalize its budget, students will have an opportunity to lobby once again for state funding for higher education.
Matt Petrillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.