Temple requested a 3 percent increase in state appropriations for FY 2013.
Last week, Temple hosted a hearing with Pennsylvania’s Senate Appropriations Committee members, initiating a dialogue surrounding the commonwealth’s financial support of the university.
On Sept. 21, Temple sent its formal appropriations request to the commonwealth.
The university requested $144.1 million, a 3 percent increase from the $139.9 million it was granted for the current fiscal year, Ken Lawrence, senior vice president for government, community and public affairs, said.
“Temple’s ‘affordability’ is actually a direct result of the state’s contribution,” Lawrence said. “If we didn’t have that type of funding, basically Temple would be a private school with skyrocketing tuition that many of us wouldn’t be able to afford.”
The proposal usually increases in order to compensate for the cost of living and inflation, Lawrence said.
This fiscal year, Temple and the other three state-affiliated universities—Penn State University, the University of Pittsburgh and Lincoln University—each experienced a 19 percent decrease from the previous year’s appropriations.
As a result of the cut in state funding, Temple’s tuition for in-state and out-of-state students raised $1,172 and $1,170, respectively. The university also had to decrease its operating budget by $36 million.
Even though state funding was cut considerably, tuition would be astronomically higher this year if Temple students, employees and alumni hadn’t lobbied against Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed 52 percent cut.
Temple had requested a 6.4 percent increase in state appropriation funds for the 2011-12 fiscal year, which would have totaled approximately $189 million.
The university has received state support since 1965, when it adopted its status as a state-related university. The appropriations offset the tuition prices of in-state students.
In order to create a better understanding of the university and its effect on the city and the commonwealth, the state’s Senate Appropriations Committee visited Main Campus on Oct. 12.
The committee heard testimonies from a number of panels and was able to question Temple officials.
“We do face, and you do face, a real dilemma,” President Ann Weaver Hart said, in speaking about the high number of students wanting to attend Temple and other higher education institutions.
“What I see, from my personal perspective, as a dilemma of the General Assembly is: Where do you invest for a product that you’ll see the results down the line?” Hart added.
Hart said projections for the next decade suggest basic college degrees will become more of a requirement for jobs in the new economy.
Mayor Michael Nutter was present for opening introductions, making a brief speech, attesting to Temple’s contributions to the city. The university’s 20/20 Scholarship Program and healthcare provided through Temple University Health System were just two of Nutter’s talking points.
The committee previously held hearings at Penn State and Pittsburgh before arriving in Philadelphia, and ended its tour at Lincoln on Oct. 13.
“We had six senators here. Three of them had never been to Temple before. They were from the western part of the state,” Lawrence said. “One of the nice things is [that] southeastern senators are supportive of Temple—central [senators], Penn State—but it gave us the opportunity to share some of the Temple story with some senators who had never had the opportunity to be here.”
Still, Temple’s ability to explain its economic benefits and research does not guarantee that the university will receive the 3 percent increase it requested, Lawrence said. Even if the state grants the increase initially, the health of the economy ultimately determines how much in subsidies Temple will receive during the fiscal year.
“The first two months of [state] revenue are in,” he said. “And they’re below their projections, which doesn’t bode well for the economy overall.”
If this trend continues, especially during months that typically bring in more revenue, such as January, March and April, Lawrence said, Corbett can issue a letter of rescission, which explains that the state will take a percentage out of the appropriation given for the year.
Lawrence said that Temple has not yet received this type of letter, and it is still too early to tell whether or not the commonwealth will bring in as much revenue as projected.
POWER IN NUMBERS
Last year, Temple Student Government Student Body President Colin Saltry was among the students at the capitol, rallying for higher education funding.
“We organized Temple students and alumni and committee members to write letters and email their state representatives through the TALON program, which is the Temple Advocates Legislative Outreach Network,” Saltry said.
In Saltry’s opinion, holding numerous rallies and sending more than 5,000 emails and letters to state representatives made all the difference then and can still make an impact now.
“We’re more than just a line on a budget,” he said. “We are in fact human beings with real lives, and there are futures at stake.”
Even though Temple’s formal budget document asks for more funding this year, nothing is set in stone, and Saltry stressed that students should not be apathetic.
Corbett’s formal budget address will likely take place in late February or early March. If Temple finds itself facing another cut in appropriations, the months between the address and the commonwealth’s approval of the final budget mark a period for officials and students to lobby legislators to provide adequate funding.
Despite the waiting period between now and the address, students can still get involved in order to prevent future tuition hikes.
“I think the best thing to do is to join Temple Student Government and get all of the up-to-date information,” Saltry said. “You can see how the process really works.”
This year, TSG plans to organize and lead rallies in Philadelphia and Harrisburg with the Pennsylvania Association of State-related students, a coalition of student leaders at the state-related universities. Temple students can also attend a strictly “Red and White” rally, which will occur closer to the Governor’s Budget Address, Saltry said.
Saltry also said those not interested in TSG can contact their state representatives via TALON.
“And of course, read the newspaper, and stay involved,” he said. “Make sure your voice is heard.”
But above all that, Saltry said he believes the power of the vote shouldn’t be forgotten. Registering to vote and actually voting gives college students a voice, he said.
“A lot of the state representatives will be up for re-election this year, so hopefully we’ll show them that the state can’t get away with these cuts in education,” Saltry said. “In the past they could, because students never voted, but we want to prove them wrong and actually, you know, get out and vote.”
Lawrence had similar advice.
“Students should be registered to vote,” he said. “They should be educated about what’s going on, and they should not be shy about sharing with their legislators—but also with their friends, with their family—what’s important to them.”
“There’s no better advocate I don’t think, than our students,” he added. “I’m proud to advocate for them, but helping them advocate for themselves is very important.”
Alex Iacovetti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.