After budget delays in Harrisburg prevented the university from receiving its promised allocations for the 2017-18 year, Temple Student Government is continuing to advocate for state funding for Temple.
TSG released a statement on Twitter at the beginning of September asking students to contact their state representatives and ask them to pass legislation so Temple can receive its “much-needed” funding.
The Pennsylvania Senate passed Senate Bill 328, which allocated about $150 million to Temple for the 2017-18 school year, in July. This accounts for just more than 10 percent of the annual operating budget. But this doesn’t mean that Temple, a state-related university, will receive this money.
Temple, along with other state-related universities like the University of Pittsburgh, Penn State University and Lincoln University, are “non-preferred” institutions, meaning funding is not first priority to the state.
“In the meantime, Temple has to borrow money, costing millions in accumulated interest, a move that will hinder our overall Temple student cost and experience,” according to TSG’s statement.
According to the state constitution, the state’s budget must be balanced before any money can be released. Last February, Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf announced a plan to address the $2.8 billion budget deficit by adding new taxes and fees, the Inquirer reported.
Temple cannot receive any allocations until this deficit is fixed.
The Inquirer also reported in July that Wolf chose not to sign a proposed $32 billion budget from the state legislature, which led to the budget automatically becoming law without a plan for how to pay for it.
The $32 billion budget passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives last week by a vote of 103-91 and will now go to the Senate for approval.
Student Body President Tyrell Mann-Barnes and TSG’s Director of Government Affairs Tyler Lum have been working with George Kenney, the senior adviser to the President for government affairs, to understand how they should advocate for the budget to pass, Mann-Barnes said.
Mann-Barnes has also been communicating with other leaders of the Pennsylvania Association of State-Related Students through group text messages to brainstorm ways to advocate for state funding.
If the House and the Governor can’t come to an agreement on the budget, Kenney said the university would send an “Owls on the Hill” delegation. Owls on the Hill is a yearly trip to Harrisburg where students knock on their representatives’ doors and lobby for Temple’s funding. Usually Owls on the Hill occurs in March, a month after the budget is proposed by the governor, but Kenney said he would send the group this semester if need be.
“As long as an agreement covers money to pay our non-preferred [allocations], we’ll be in good shape,” Kenney said. “If we sense those negotiations are going to cut out our funding, then that’s when we would trigger the activity of Owls on the Hill and fight for Temple’s funding.”
There is an “awkward balancing act” involved in this lobbying, Kenney said. While Temple is advocating to receive this year’s funding, they are also in the process of putting together a presentation for next year’s funding.
Last March, Temple asked the state to restore Temple’s funding to its highest appropriation ever, which was $187 million in 2008. Instead, the state appropriated level-funding for the university, allocating $150 million in 2016-17 and 2017-18.
If the budget doesn’t pass the Senate, Kenney and Lum will create postcards for students to sign and mail to their representatives. The hope, Lum said, is that state representatives will understand how the budget impacts students.
“We don’t want to cause panic, but if this budget doesn’t pass, it is a sense of urgency,” Lum added. “We need students to speak up and bother their representatives so we get our allocations. We’re not trying to make students too worried, but if Temple doesn’t get the funding, then in-state tuition and out-of-state tuition will rise.”
“A lot of students don’t think of the allocations side of things,” he added. “They think that tuition is tuition and that’s the way it is. But unfortunately, allocations do matter, and that’s the kind of world we’re living in right now.”