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Penn State Funding Cut Could Be Eased under House Legislation

on June 24, 2011 3:47 PM

The Pennsylvania House Appropriations Committee on Friday passed legislation that would trim Penn State's state funding by about 19 percent for the 2011-'12 fiscal year, according to media reports from Harrisburg.

Gov. Tom Corbett in March had proposed a much deeper state-funding cut -- roughly 50 percent -- for Penn State and Pennsylvania's other three state-related universities.

After a 19 percent cut, Penn State would see roughly $214.1 million in general-education state funding next year, according to an analysis relayed by John Micek at the Allentown Morning Call. The House Appropriations Committee's legislation also would reduce funding for the other state-related universities -- Temple University, the University of Pittsburgh and Lincoln University -- by similar proportions.

The full state House is expected to to take up the measure shortly. Lawmakers and Corbett are tentatively expected to finalize a budget agreement by sometime next week.

Penn State President Graham Spanier, speaking with reporters Friday in State College, said he has mixed emotions.

"I'm very grateful that the Legislature has moderated the level of the cut from what was originally proposed," he said. "The difference from where it started to where it is now is about one-third of our (state) appropriation. That's a very substantial improvement.

"But we can't forget that it would represent a cut somewhere on the order of $62 million, with the numbers I'm hearing today," Spanier went on. "That's still a lot of dollars for us to make up."

Spanier noted that the university has been implementing cost-cutting measures, "some of them across the board, some of them targeted, some coming out of our (internal) Core Council recommendations" to improve efficiency. "We've been looking in every nook and cranny of the university for savings."

Penn State trustees are scheduled to decide on tuition rates at a meeting next month. Spanier said the administration has not yet settled on final proposed tuition rates for the trustees to vote on.

He declined to project roughly where the tuition increases may land, saying that "I better not speculate on that until we have some final numbers" about the state appropriation.

"But we are very committed, and have been from the beginning, to not putting an excessive burden on the backs of our students," Spanier said. "We expect to have a tuition increase that is what you might see in a normal year, not a substantial increase of the sort that you're going to see at universities around the country this year. Ours will definitely be on the low end."

Penn State relies primarily on tuition revenue and state money to fund its general-education budget. So when state funding declines, it puts pressure on the university to raise tuition, university officials have said.

The university's tuition increases ranged from roughly 3.9 percent to 5.9 percent last year; the year before, they were roughly in the 4 percent range.

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