Temple administrators, students to advocate for proposed funding increase

Gov. Shapiro’s 2024-25 five percent funding increase to state-related universities would be the first in six years if approved in July.

If approved in July, Gov. Shapiro’s budget increase for state-related universities would be the first in six years. | FERNANDO GAXIOLA / THE TEMPLE NEWS

President Richard Englert and other Temple administrators will visit Capitol Hill in Harrisburg today to advocate for Temple’s yearly state funding increase proposed by Gov. Josh Shapiro and answer questions from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

For the third year in a row, the Pennsylvania governor has proposed a five percent increase to state funding for state-related universities, including Temple. 

“We’re very pleased with [the proposal],” said Ken Kaiser, senior vice president and chief operating officer. “We feel the governor is a real champion of public education, including public higher education. We are hopeful that this year’s increase that he’s included in this budget will stick and we can reflect it in our budget when it’s approved in July.”

All state funding contributes directly to discounting Temple’s in-state tuition, bringing standard tuition from about $32,000 to $18,000 for Pennsylvania students. The university’s appropriation has been approximately $158.2 million each year since 2019, but would be $166.1 million with the proposed increase.

“Every dollar that we get of state funding has a direct impact on what students are paying,” Kaiser said. “Last year, we didn’t get an increase in state funding and the tuition increase was over four percent. We get this five percent increase and I’m very confident that tuition increase will be less going into next year.”

The university requested just more than a 15 percent increase in state funding for the 2024-25 year, which would have accounted for inflation and held tuition flat for the next academic year. 

However, the university has requested the same increase before and had “realistic expectations” that it wouldn’t be implemented, Kaiser said.

The university ideally wants to keep pace with inflation for annual appropriation increases. The appropriation now is significantly less than it was 15 years ago when adjusted for inflation, Kaiser said.

State-related universities have struggled to receive more state funding from the House for multiple reasons, including rising tuition costs. The House passed funding for the 2023-24 year in November 2023, but House Republicans delayed it for months while calling for a tuition freeze for all state-related universities.

However, Temple was unable to freeze a year’s tuition in exchange for a larger appropriation because tuition makes up 78 percent of the budget while the appropriation is only 15 percent. 

The trade-off didn’t make sense for the university, Kaiser said.

Shapiro eventually signed the funding bill four and a half months after the budget deadline this year once House Republicans successfully demanded the Right-to-Know law — which requires institutions to make financial and other relevant data public — be amended to include state-related universities.

The university isn’t anticipating a similar situation this July, but it wouldn’t be surprised if another delay occurs, Kaiser said.

Some conservative representatives have also previously opposed funding state-related universities because of their own moral opposition to various subjects, including University of Pittsburgh’s fetal tissue research and Penn State University’s healthcare for transgender children. 

“It’s frustrating, especially when the governor includes an increase and then it doesn’t survive the legislative process,” Kaiser said. “Especially when the focus is on other universities and not necessarily on Temple. We get combined together and treated the same, and it just becomes difficult. The timing becomes frustrating, when last year we had an increase assumed in the budget up to the end of June and then had to quickly pivot and take it out of the budget.”

Temple has reduced its budget by an average of $42 million per year since 2021, following enrollment decline and two years of tuition freeze during the pandemic. 

The university relies on administrative and student advocates each year to promote funding increases.

Temple students will visit the Capitol again for Owls on the Hill Day later in the year, where they will meet with representatives and general assembly members to advocate for funding.

Politicians benefit most from hearing from students who can inform them how state funding, or the lack of it, impacts them directly, rather than hearing from administrators’ reports on budget implications, Kaiser said.

Owl Advocates, a network of Temple students, families, faculty and alumni managed by the Office of Governmental Affairs and Civic Engagement, enlists support from the community each year to send emails and make phone calls of support to the Capitol.

“Becoming an Owl Advocate and making sure that those letters are reaching the desks of the General Assembly – even though it’s an automated process, we do hear from them. We’ve heard in the past, them asking us ‘Stop, please stop sending the letters’ so that does have an impact,” Kaiser said.

If funding is delayed in the House, the university will use Board of Trustees members’ relationships with legislative contacts and other relevant advocates, like administrators from Pitt and Penn State, to gather more support.

“[Shapiro] recognizes the benefit of having a citizenry that is better educated leads to better jobs, better standard of living in more tax revenue,” Kaiser said. “He recognizes he has to invest, to keep the cost down, and to strengthen our universities.” 

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