On March 16 and March 28, President Ann Weaver Hart addressed legislatures.
On March 28, President Ann Weaver Hart appeared before the State Senate Appropriations Committee in Harrisburg, Pa., as well as members of the Senate Education Committee, to appeal on behalf of the university concerning the proposed budget cuts to the four state-related universities.
For three hours, Hart, along with the leaders of Penn State University, Lincoln University and the University of Pittsburgh, stressed the importance of accessible higher education and the benefits the schools bring to the state. The educators were asked about diversity rates, economic impacts of the schools and graduation rates. But most of the questions focused on possible tuition increases.
“In the private colleges and universities just around Temple, all of the private colleges and universities are between two- and three-plus times more expensive than the in-state tuition at Temple,” Hart said at the hearings. “A real investment of the Commonwealth citizens in their own children.”
Some representatives argued that the universities’ financial difficulty should have been foreseen, and questioned the preparedness of the schools’ leaders to deal with such a change.
“This wasn’t news to you,” Rep. Mark Mustio said. “Your opening statement indicated you’re willing to participate, but all of you have come in with requests for increases.”
“Never in my wildest imagination did I contemplate that we would be proposed for a cut of more than half of our appropriation,” Penn State President Graham Spanier said.
“We are right there with you, being squeezed from both ends,” Hart added.
Hart and the leaders from the other state-related universities also addressed the appropriations committees on March 16.
“I believe it was, for the first time, a very direct discussion of the policy implications,” Hart told the Pennsylvania Cable Network. “But it was also a confrontation of what we want the future for ourselves and our children to be in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
Under Corbett’s proposed budget, Temple would receive approximately $82.4 million from the state, opposed to the $172.7 million it received this year. Roughly $7 million of this year’s figure came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
At the committee hearing, Hart emphasized the role of state college graduates and the economic and cultural benefits they bring to the state.
“We estimate that over a million Pennsylvanians, currently living and working and raising their families here, have degrees from the state system of higher education,” Hart said to the committee at the hearing. “Those people all pay taxes, and those people are all a part of paying into this social contract that we’re a part of.”
According to the report presented to the committee, Temple generates $1.5 billion for the Philadelphia economy, while the Temple University Health Systems alone generates an additional $1.2 billion for the commonwealth as a whole. The university supports 33,000 jobs in the state, 18,500 of which are in Philadelphia.
Hart told the committee that, in 2009, Temple made a 5 percent spending cut of $40 million, in a response to the state’s economic stress. The reduction was made permanent in 2010.
“[Temple] also froze salaries, eliminated non-vital travel and froze most hiring,” Hart stated in her letter to the committee.
For students like Joe Harrington, a freshman nursing student who already suffers from student debt, such an increase could affect their ability to attend college.
“I have federal student loans, and I’m going to have to take out more my junior and senior year,” Harrington said.
Harrington added that he originally intended to major in political science but found nursing to be more accommodating to his future financial burden.
“I went out of state to avoid the cuts for higher education,” Harrington said.
Ken Lawrence, the senior vice president for government, community and public affairs, re-affirmed Hart’s statement to the committee by saying that if Temple lost the proposed appropriations, the full burden would not be placed on students’ tuition.
Amelia Brust can be reached at email@example.com.