TTN reporter Amanda Fries contributed to this report.
State rep. John Taylor (R-Philadelphia) is standing by his threats to cut $175 million in state funding to Temple University, potentially causing a $5,000 increase in tuition.
Today, not long before a student rally and march on Taylor’s office began at the Student Center, Taylor said students should look to the administration and what it has done rather than blame lawmakers for the potential tuition increase.
“Temple University decides what tuition rates are, but we decide how they are funded,” Taylor told The Temple News this afternoon. “That’s not an automatic thing where they can expect funding each and every year without any accountability to anybody.”
Taylor’s threats to pull state appropriations for the university came after a bitter battle over the closing of Temple’s Northeastern Hospital in Port Richmond. Taylor maintains that the Port Richmond community, which falls under his jurisdiction, was hurt by Temple’s decision to close the hospital’s doors last month.
“That is not the kind of behavior that we would expect from any corporate citizen, but certainly not one that received its funding from the very people that it hurt,” Taylor said. “We feel that we are shareholders in Temple, and, in fact, we are. In any case when the shareholders are ignored by the board of directors, we have a right to complain.”
State rep. Dennis O’Brien, who also opposed the closing of Northeastern Hospital, however, stated in an e-mail to a concerned student today that “negotiations with the University have been productive.”
O’Brien wrote in the e-mail that he expects funding could be restored to Temple as early as next week.
Taylor, however, showed no sign he would back down this afternoon.
He said he didn’t know if there was another way to get his point across without affecting so many students and employees of the university with something as drastic as a $175 million funding cut.
“I don’t think anything is affecting anybody at this point,” he said. ” … I think that their [students’] upsetment [sic] should be directed at the administration there.”
Students could face a $5,000 – or 45 percent – tuition increase this year if the threat from local lawmakers comes to fruition.
Temple was set to receive $175 million in Commonwealth appropriations
this year, all of which may be cut by a bill to be voted on by the
Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
The bill was pulled by Taylor on
Tuesday in retaliation, after Temple faced criticism since
its decision to close Northeastern Hospital due to increasing financial loss
was announced in March 2009. Northeastern Hospital reportedly lost $6.6
million in the 2008 fiscal year and was estimated to lose another $15
million in the 2009 fiscal year.
“Our focus and concern is on the Pennsylvania residents who are Temple
undergraduate students,” said Ken Lawrence, Jr., senior vice president
for government, community and public affairs. “Without a Commonwealth
appropriation, these students could experience a tuition increase of
45 percent, or roughly $5,000 dollars. We respect Rep. Taylor and stand ready
to discuss his concerns. However, our students should not be punished
with a potentially devastating tuition increase.”
Local politicians scrutinized Temple officials for not
establishing or maintaining a dialogue with the lawmakers to
find an alternative to cutting off inpatient services at Northeastern. The hospital
now functions as an ambulatory care center, offering non-emergency and outpatient services.
Though four Philadelphia lawmakers lobbied against the closing of the
hospital, Taylor is the only one who has lobbied for all of Temple’s
state appropriations to be cut. Sen. Michael Stack (D) and Sen. Larry
Farnese (D) have not officially cast their support for or against the
Yesterday, O’Brien said, “I’m going to support Temple,” but refused to elaborate.
Temple students and affiliates, however, have been campaigning against
the cut, flooding local lawmakers’ phone lines, inboxes and mailboxes
with their protests.
Although Temple is a state-affiliated school, funding is
never guaranteed, Temple Student Government Vice
President of Services Jon DeSantis said.
“Rep. Taylor has a lot of power and has the potential to get the
necessary votes,” he said.
The university has already cut $40 million from its operating budget
in order to maintain a lower, 2.9 percent tuition increase this year.
The General Assembly is scheduled to vote on the bill next week.
Temple has encouraged all to contact their local legislators in order
to voice their opinion on the bill.
“Obviously, we’re concerned about our students and what kind of burden
this would mean for them,” university spokesman Ray Betzner said.
“It would be substantial.”
Stay with www.temple-news.com and www.twitter.com/thetemplenews for continuing updates on this developing story.
Kathryn A. López can be reached at email@example.com.