PSU Ag Research, Cooperative Extension Spared in Corbett Proposal; Erickson Responds to Plan
UPDATED @ 2:31 p.m. Feb. 7: The Corbett budget plan introduced Tuesday includes no proposed cuts to agricultural-research and Cooperative Extension line items at Penn State, the university noted Tuesday afternoon.
Those areas, both of which took substantial hits in the last budget cycle, depend heavily on state funds to stay float.
In addition, the Corbett proposal for 2012-13 includes flat funding for the Pennsylvania College of Technology, an arm of the university.
But how the university might handle a proposed $64 million cut in its general state support remains an open question. In a prepared statement, Penn State President Rodney Erickson said the school "will do everything possible to not let state funding cuts impose an undue hardship on Penn State families.
"We will do everything we can to continue to cut costs and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of delivering our broad range of instructional programs, the core of what makes Penn State a great academic institution," Erickson said.
He said the university wants to continue its historic partnership with the state. "In the months ahead, we'll have an opportunity to make the legislature aware of the likely impacts of these cuts for Penn State programs and how they will affect students and their families," he said in the prepared remarks.
"We fully appreciate the financial pressure on the commonwealth in identifying resources, and trust the state understands the consequences of continuing cuts of this magnitude," Erickson went on.
In a news release, the university reported its board and officials, "in dialogue with the university's various constituencies, will analyze the impact of the proposed cuts to determine how to respond" over the next several months. It underscored that Penn State's funding from the commonwealth was already cut by 19.6 percent, or a $68 million, for the current fiscal year.
That, as Penn State noted, yielded hundreds of job losses via layoffs and prompted some program cuts and academic-department mergers. Salaries at the university were frozen, as well.
Earlier coverage is posted below.
Initial report, posted @ 1:14 p.m. Feb. 7:
Penn State would see a nearly 30 percent decrease in state general-support funding under Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed budget for 2012-13.
In terms of dollars, the general-support line for the university would fall from about $214 million in 2011-12 to about $150 million next year. Other state-related universities would see similar declines.
The overall state budget proposal, which Corbett introduced Tuesday in a 36-minute address in Harrisburg, includes no tax increases and no deficit spending, the governor said. He called it a spending plan "grounded in difficult realities but framed in the optimism that we are solving our problems.
"Once again, revenues do not match mandated, escalating costs," Corbett said in his prepared remarks to the state General Assembly. "That means we must continue the course bravely charted by this assembly in the year just passed."
His budget, outlining shy of $30 billion in proposed expenses, projects a state revenue shortfall of some $700 million. It recommends bridging that gap with a variety of cuts. Under his administration, Corbett said, the state has already cut six percent of its total expenses.
The governor last March proposed a 52-percent state-funding cut for Penn State, but lawmakers ultimately moderated that to a 19-percent cut when the 2011-12 state budget was finalized over the summer.
Immediate impacts at the university included scores of job losses, though administrators said they sought to minimize effects on the classroom. Penn State took an additional, $11.4 million state-funding hit in January.
"I am submitting to you a budget proposal that is at once lean and demanding," Corbett said Tuesday. "In the coming weeks, we will sit down to work out the final details as we map out our course. But this map will come with boundaries. We will not spend more than we have.
"We will not raise taxes," Corbett went on. "There is no talking around these limits. Every dollar taken in tax is one less dollar in the hands of a job-holder or job-creator. Every dollar spent by government is one dollar less in the sector that creates real prosperity."
Corbett, who has put an emphasis on open-records transparency at state-funded universities, also called on Pennsylvanians Tuesday to confront the issue of fast-rising college tuition. "I think we need to talk about this honestly and without rancor and dramatics," he said.
To that end, he went on, he is forming a panel to study higher education in Pennsylvania and to develop recommendations for best serving students and the state. He has asked the panel to return its recommendations by November, Corbett said.
Penn State tuition has more than tripled since the early 1990s, ranking the institution among the very most expensive public universities in the U.S. University leaders, however, have often said Pennsylvania ranks among the least-generous states in its financial support of public higher education. That puts more pressure on the institution to raise tuition, they have argued.
StateCollege.com will have more coverage of the state budget situation, including reaction from Penn State itself, later Tuesday. The university counts a total annual budget in the $4 billion range, but it relies on state support in large part to help finance undergraduate education for in-state students.