Temple’s Student Government sent a letter Thursday to Gov.Tom Wolf and the state legislature calling for an end to the current budget impasse.
Only two states in the country did not pass a budget by the July budget deadline this past summer: Illinois and Pennsylvania. Aron Cowen, TSG’s director of government affairs, said the idea of university student governments sending letters to state government began at a meeting at Pennsylvania State University.
“At Penn State we were talking about how we can work together and to create conditions where the budget can pass,” Cowen said. “We came up with the idea of having a collective call where the student bodies of the each of the state-related schools would send similar letters to Wolf and Congress, and having a day of social media tweeting.”
The Presidents of each of the four state-related university student governments—Penn State, Lincoln, Pitt and Temple—sent letters to Wolf, and both the state’s House and Senate. Along with the letters, the organizations orchestrated social media campaigns to apply pressure to the politicians who they deemed responsible for the budget gridlock.
Student Body President Ryan Rinaldi noted the cuts to Temple’s funding under former Gov. Tom Corbett in TSG’s letter.
“Temple University saw its appropriation drop from over $172 million in the 2010-2011 fiscal year to $139,917,000 from 2011-2012, a decrease of over $32 million,” he wrote.
“In 2010 we [Temple] received just over 170 million dollars from the state, in 2011 that dropped to under $140 million and we’ve been flat funded since then. We’re still at the $140 level,” Cowen added about the cuts. “If you adjust for inflation it’s even worse than it looks.”
Without the budget passed, the state-related schools receive no funding.
“Funding for the state related schools is a special appropriation so it doesn’t go through the normal budget process but since they’ve gridlocked nothing is going through,” Cowen said.
The pressure that the student governments are applying is aimed to expedite the process of passing the budget.
“We want them to come together and show leadership and pass the budget,” said Binh Nguyen, TSG’s vice president of external affairs. “They really don’t understand that their politics are affecting students and their lives.”
Without the budget passed, PHEAA grants are going to be impossible to attain during the next academic year. This has already begun at Penn State, said Cowen.
If the state politicians in Harrisburg do not come together, their jobs as policy makers could be in jeopardy, Nguyen said.
“I think that they are very petty about being divided but we have been reiterating on social media that if they don’t come together we are going to do something about it,” she said. “If they don’t come together then they’re going to feel the repercussions in the next election.”
Cowen believes once the budget gets passed,education funding should not be an issue.
“Historically, education has been a bipartisan thing,” he said. “Support for higher education is bipartisan. I think support for the state related schools is something that all sides can agree on.”
Jonathan Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jonnygilbs96.