Penn State spokesperson Lisa Powers responds to a column published last week on StateCollege.com.
We felt it necessary to correct the inaccuracies presented in John Hook's March 1 column "Time for Penn State to Cut Ties With the State Appropriation?"
The $278 million in state funding that Penn State has been waiting on for the past eight months cannot be easily made up, as Mr. Hook inaccurately calculates, from a magic pot of $391 million in excess funds. Unfortunately, Mr. Hook has included in the mix not only $102 million that is attributable to our clinical enterprise at the Hershey Medical Center, but also $47 million in revenue that belongs to our self-supporting units such as Intercollegiate Athletics and Auxiliary and Business Services – all of these units need these funds to support their own operations and to also plan for capital investments in the future.
The $278 million that Penn State needs from the Commonwealth not only contains funding for general education, but also $46 million in agricultural and extension funds — the sole source of revenue for those statewide operations. Mr. Hook’s musings also fail to recognize that the state appropriation goes directly toward lowering in-state tuition for Pennsylvania students. Our educational mission is supported primarily by only two sources of funds: tuition and state appropriation. The loss of $232 million in this area would be devastating for our students and their families.
What John Hook is suggesting is that Penn State become a private university — for which there is no model that has 20 undergraduate campuses, a medical college and two law schools. Currently, Penn State is a state-related, non-profit, public land-grant research university that provides more than $17 billion in direct and indirect economic impact to the Commonwealth. As a private institution, Penn State would no longer assist Pennsylvania with its No. 1 industry of agriculture; we would no longer by charter serve the people of Pennsylvania; our partnership with Pennsylvania that has been in place for 150-plus years would no longer exist; our students would feel a substantial impact; and the face of our entire university would forever change.
There has never been a state that has failed to financially support its public land-grant university. There is a reason for that longstanding record. We wouldn’t want Pennsylvania to be the first to take this dangerous and ill-advised leap.