Administrators submitted their annual request for appropriations to the commonwealth in October.
Now more than ever, students are footing the bill for their education at Temple.
For the 2010-11 fiscal year, tuition and fees made up 72.7 percent of the state-related university’s education and general budget. State appropriation funds – the money Temple receives from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – made up 20.9 percent. For the entire $1.074 billion operating budget – including housing auxiliary expenses, among others – state appropriation makes up just 16.6 percent.
On Oct. 21, the university sent its annual appropriation request to the Pennsylvania Department of Education for the 2011-12 fiscal year, asking for a 6.4 percent increase in state appropriation funds, which would total approximately $189 million. But the requested allotment is far from set in stone.
“There will be a budget address in late February [or] early March when the general assembly will announce a number,” Senior Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs Ken Lawrence said. “Once we know what that number is, that’s when we’ll try to get students activated, alumni, parents, employees and everyone to make the case that … there’s definitely a role for the state-related universities to play.”
The few months between the budget announcement and budget vote in June are crucial, Lawrence said.
“That’s when some of the trading goes on,” he added. “Frankly, we’re competing against other interests that are in the budget that are going to be cut as well.”
Last year, Temple made a similar $189 million request, but received $178.5 million from the state, excluding the $7 million in federal stimulus money it received from the one-time American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
This year, Temple will try to restore the state appropriation levels from 2008, prior to major cuts that stemmed from the recession.
“We’re not trying to get an increase,” Lawrence said. “But just take us back to where we were before they started cutting and before the stimulus.”
Though Temple submitted its request to the university with Governor Ed Rendell still in office, Governor-Elect Tom Corbett will decide the budget.
During his campaign, Corbett spoke sparingly about state-related university funding, but he pledged not to raise taxes for Pennsylvanians.
“When you look at Governor-Elect Tom Corbett and you’re seeing that his model as governor is Governor [Chris] Christie in New Jersey, then you can expect that there’s going to be a lot of cuts – not just in higher education, but across the board,” Lawrence said.
“Pennsylvania is going to have a projected $4 billion deficit hole without stimulus funds and other things,” he added. “It’s going to be a painful budget year for anyone who gets anything from the commonwealth.”
Lawrence said administrators met with both gubernatorial candidates – Corbett and Democrat Dan Onorato – prior to the midterm elections, but said “no specifics” were discussed regarding state appropriations.
Because of the budget deficit Pennsylvania faces, Lawrence said the outcome of the election had little bearing on the work Temple will have to do to get its slice of the commonwealth pie.
“For the most part, you wouldn’t have a legislature say, ‘No, I don’t support higher education,’” Lawrence said, adding that revenues for the commonwealth are decreasing as state costs increase. “But the pie is shrinking.”
DECREASING STATE FUNDING
Offering a third higher-learning institution choice to Pennsylvania residents remains the hallmark of state-related universities, but the state appropriation level “reached its apex” in 1975, Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer Anthony Wagner said.
“The trend has been going in the other direction for a long time,” he said.
Since Temple is a private, not-for-profit institution, it has a third payer – students’ tuition – to make up for the remaining portion of the university’s operating budget, creating a strong, unbreakable link between state appropriation funds and tuition. The operating budget this year stands at $1.74 billion.
A Temple student’s bank account during the 1972-73 FY bore less burden when tuition and fees funded just 34.1 percent of the education and general budget, while state appropriation funds stood at 60.1 percent.
“People will often ask, ‘Why does tuition go up most years higher than the consumer price index?’” Wagner said. “The answer is because we have a pretty significant amount of our budget that tends to go down, so that other chunk has to make up for it.”
The other “chunk” – state appropriation dollars – has changed significantly since Temple first started receiving funds from the commonwealth after it became a state-related university in 1965.
“Nobody in Harrisburg has wanted to cut higher education or public education, but there are constraints they have,” Wagner said, adding that Temple has always gotten support from Republicans and Democrats.
Wagner attributed the decline in dollars for higher education to three growing need-based budgetary constraints: federal-entitlement programs, such as Medicaid and Social Security, crime and correctional facilities and basic public education.
“It’s been a problem that has vexed governors and members of the general assembly for a long time,” Wagner said. “Crime and corrections is what it is. They can’t side-step that. The Medicaid budget is what it is, they can’t side-step that. Basic education is a bigger issue than higher education because everybody goes to school. Politically, it’s a bigger issue in Harrisburg.”
In the mid-1960s, as state schools began to experience an influx of students, in part because of the baby boomers entering university, space and affordable tuition became a larger problem for the commonwealth. Temple, the University of Pittsburgh and Lincoln University were operating as private higher-learning institutions and, at the time, were struggling financially. Both the schools and the state saw opportunity in a joint agreement.
Besides Penn State, which pre-dated the state-related university domino as a land-grant university, Temple was the first to join powers with the commonwealth in December 1965. Pitt quickly followed in 1966, and Lincoln rounded out the pack in 1972.
“At that time, all the institutions were in some financial difficulty,” Lawrence said. “The state said, ‘OK, we will help you with an allocation for your capital improvements so you can improve the physical sites of your campus, and we’ll give you an additional allocation so we can create a tiered system so that in-state students have the opportunity to have an education here at a more affordable rate.’”
The “tiered-system” put a layer between state schools like West Chester University and Millersville University and private universities. Because Temple, Penn State, Pitt and Lincoln received state allocations, the universities could not only stay afloat but also keep tuition prices from rising as high as private institutions.
“There’s actually more Pennsylvania residents who attend Temple, Penn State, Pitt and Lincoln than attend the whole state system of higher education,” Lawrence said, citing 150,000 Pennsylvania residents who attend the state-related universities compared to 120,000 who go to state schools.
Part of Temple preserving its state appropriation funds hinges on the time between the budget address and budget vote. Though Lawrence acknowledged the battle for dollars will be difficult considering the state’s deficit, he said students should not underestimate their power.
“I always say, ‘Government relations is everybody’s job,’” Lawrence said. “The best thing for me or one of my lobbyists is when I walk into a legislative office to talk about appropriation [and they] say, ‘Hey, I heard from 20 Temple students in my district.’ That helps us make the case. The more noise we make, the more we talk about what’s important to us, then I think it helps a lot in the process.”
According to university data, there are 27,201 Pennsylvania residents at Temple, which is 70 percent of its total student population.
Since its inception when Temple’s state appropriation was in political limbo in 2009, the Temple Advocates Legislative Outreach Network has sent more than 2,000 letters to 168 elected officials. Lawrence said TALON could have the same effect this year, too.
“Students underestimate how powerful their voice can be,” he said.
Ashley Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.