Pa. act excludes university from tuition reprieve

State system schools are slated to receive financial help from Gov. Ed Rendell, but Temple won’t reap the benefits of the boost.

Other state-affiliated schools, including Pennsylvania State University, the University of Pittsburgh and Lincoln University, are also excluded from receiving the proposed tuition relief as well.

Rendell’s plan, the Pennsylvania Tuition Relief Act, would provide desperately needed college tuition assistance to Pennsylvania students whose family incomes are less than $100,000 per year.

But the $128 million plan to boost financial aid only applies to students entering the other 14 state universities or any of Pennsylvania’s 14 community colleges beginning Fall 2009.

“In these difficult times, students need all the help they can get to keep their costs as low as possible,” President Ann Weaver Hart said in an article released by the news communications office. “Temple’s students deserve the same opportunities for support as those attending other schools in the Commonwealth.”

During his budget address, Rendell proposed a 6 percent cut in appropriations to state-related universities from the Commonwealth.

Temple already saw cuts from the state and has trimmed more than $22 million from this year’s and next year’s budgets.

“Being as though Temple is a public school and does depend on state funding, a compromise should be made to include the university,” said Fanchon Hall, a senior communications major.

“It all comes down to governance,” said Leah Harris, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Education. “What’s important to note is that the state schools are the only institutions where we can help control tuition levels. Our ability to control tuition helps us determine what we can pay for with the revenues from the poker machines. Of course, we would love to fund all students, but that just isn’t possible as of right now.”

To fund the new program, Rendell proposed that the Commonwealth enact legislation to legalize video poker and tax its proceeds.

Rendell also said he wants to add $45 million in grants to current and incoming students through the state grant program. The proposal would set aside $10 million in grants annually for new community college students and restore $35 million in grant cuts made last year by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.

Harris said both state and state-affiliated schools would benefit from the $35 million restoration of PHEAA grants.

The state spent about $407 million last year on student grants, and Rendell’s plan represents an increase of about $173 million.

“I think it’s important that we support the Governor in trying to provide aid to students for their college tuition,” Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Anthony Wagner said. “I think it’s also important that we work with the Governor and the general assembly to assure that Temple students have access to those funds as well. Obviously, they’re facing the same challenges that families and students all over the Commonwealth are facing, so I would encourage them to talk to their elected officials and voice their opinions.”

According to the Office of News Communications, university officials will be meeting with the House Appropriations Committee in early March in an attempt to get added financial support from the state.

The Senate Education Committee will be holding an oversight hearing on the Rendell’s budget in regards to higher education at the end of March. His decision to only include state schools and community colleges will be addressed.

Over the last several years, Temple has had to cope with the consequences of dwindling state funding. Last semester, the university announced across-the-board budget cuts and was forced into a hiring freeze.

The state was not successful in increasing the amount of funding to Temple for next year, and it did not restore the funding cut from the current year’s budget, Wagner said.

This decrease is the latest in a long-lasting trend of declining state funding to Temple. Over the last four decades, declines in state appropriations have played a significant role in the university’s increasing dependence on tuition revenues.

In 1972, about 34 percent of Temple’s budget came from tuition and 60 percent from state appropriations. This year, 68 percent comes from tuition, while 25 percent comes from state appropriations.

“The university has lost a significant amount of buying power,” Wagner said. “Approximately $35 million worth of buying power has been lost from the state appropriation in this decade.”

Erika Ransom can be reached at erika.ransom@temple.edu.

5 Comments

  1. Governor Rendall is making a poor choice. Temple is a major university, not only in the Philadelphia area, but in campuses all over the world. Philadelphia alone as a city contributes heavily to the overall Pennsylavnia tax budget. Many of our students get jobs in the Philadelphia region. Temple has ensured jobs and urban renewal. This helps the state revenue immensely. I hope the governor changes his mind and continues to fund Temple University as we have much to offer in these difficult times.

  2. “It all comes down to governance,” said Leah Harris, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Education. “What’s important to note is that the state schools are the only institutions where we can help control tuition levels. Our ability to control tuition helps us determine what we can pay for with the revenues from the poker machines. Of course, we would love to fund all students, but that just isn’t possible as of right now.”

    If not now, when????

  3. R U kidding me?????????? State College, Pitt and Temple left out?? R U kidding me???R U you kidding me??? This is nothing but criminal to even suggest that only SOME schools’ lower income and struggling families will get help. The rest can rot. Unconstitutional, and my opinion of Gov. Rendell has plummeted, with all the promises about health insurance that never materialized and now this UNFAIR UNFAIR UNFAIR scheme. Just can’t say enough- get rid of Rendell now!!!! Not right that only SOME state schools will get help. NOT FAIR. Unless you make it for ALL state schools, its unfair. GET RID OF RENDELL – EMPTY PROMISES AND UNFAIR IDEAS.

  4. please include ALL state schools! Why wouldnt you? Financially strapped families need to still provide their kids with the best academic environment. Penn State is number 4 in the country for Astrophysics. Where are you going to find another opportunity in any other state school like that? INSANE! Please reconsider…this does not make sense…

  5. After researching a few facts my observation would be as follows:
    1) The Gov is again playing the game of attaching some form of questionable revenue which is currently not legal nor can any amount be defined to something good such as education. Does this sound remotely familiar?
    Slots revenue to be used for property tax relief ( nowhere near estimates)
    But these tactics appear to make e good impression for re-election hopes

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