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 email@example.com.