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Spanier to Answer 'Proposed Catastrophic Cuts' in Penn State Funding

on March 08, 2011 1:32 PM

UPDATE @ 7:56 a.m. Wednesday: Penn State President Graham Spanier's press briefing on the proposed state-funding cuts will be streamed via a video feed on the WPSU website. It will start at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, the university announced. WPSU radio (91.5 FM in the State College area) will broadcast the event live, as well.

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Earlier report, posted @ 1:32 p.m. Tuesday:

Facing a deep proposed cut in state support, the Penn State administration has scheduled a press conference to address the matter Wednesday morning.

Penn State President Graham Spanier is expected to "respond to the proposed catastrophic cuts and discuss the commonwealth's apparent push toward privatization of public higher education, which will force a significant tax on all tuition-paying families of in-state students at all of Pennsylvania's public institutions," a university announcement reads.

Pennsylvania public universities "are slated for the most dramatic appropriation cut in the history of American higher education" under the budget proposal from Gov. Tom Corbett, according to a report on Penn State Live. It is the university's official news website.

Specifically, according to Penn State's numbers, the proposal would reduce the university's state appropriation by 52.4 percent. Such a move would amount to the most severe funding cut in Penn State history and "suggests a redefinition of Penn State's role as Pennsylvania's land-grant institution," the Penn State Live report reads.

If approved by the state House and Senate, the reduction would cut from about eight percent to about four percent the amount of Penn State's annual budget that comes from state support.

"A reduction of this magnitude would necessitate massive budget cuts, layoffs and tuition increases, with a devastating effect on many students, employees and their families," university Senior Vice President Al Horvath said in the report. "While we have for many months been planning for a potential state funding cut, we could not have envisioned one so damaging to the future of the university and the commonwealth."

Penn State officials received no advance notice that a 52 percent state-support cut was a possibility, and "nor was there any prior discussion about the potential impact of such a cut," according to the Penn State Live report. Corbett introduced his proposed state budget for 2011-2012 on Tuesday morning.

The Penn State Live report also quotes Spanier as saying that "a funding gap this large is going to fundamentally change the way we operate, from the numbers of students we can educate, to the tuition we must charge, to the programs we offer and the services we can provide, to the number of employees and the research we undertake."

Other university officials said the proposed cut would jeopardize Penn State's ability to offer access and opportunities at its 24 campuses; undermine support for the agricultural industry; and reduce economic-development support, according to the online report.

It says that Penn State administrators "plan to deal with the cuts as equitably as possible, but significant downsizing in academic and administrative units will be under consideration.

"Scaling back plans for critical facility needs, such as major maintenance and capital improvements, will be undertaken; changes to the university's health-care programs will be revisited to create additional savings; salary increases for employees will likely again be frozen; and more across-the-board budget reductions for academic and administrative units will have to be instituted," it reads.

Spanier said he vows "to challenge the level of this reduction aggressively."

StateCollege.com will post additional information as it becomes available.

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