My daughter Julia is a junior at The University of Pittsburgh. And, although this blog generally does not address political issues, this time I feel compelled to bring one up. It has to do with Governor Tom Corbett’s budget, and how the budget affects all Pennsylvanians. State budgets are not the sexiest of issues, but here in Pennsylvania we all need to start paying attention. In this article I will only address one aspect of the budget -- how it threatened to affect college costs.
After suffering an almost 20 percent budget cut in 2011, The University of Pittsburgh, as well as other state schools, faced an additional 30 percent cut this year due to Governor Tom Corbett's February budget proposal. For instance, Pitt's appropriations would have been down from $167 million to about $80 million. Reportedly, over just two years, the school stood to lose roughly $100 million.
As a response to the proposed cuts, Pitt's Student Government Board put together a rally attended by school board members, professors, current students, former students, and community members, all of whom were outraged by the losses the school was facing. The residing sentiment throughout the rally and subsequent protests was that such extreme cuts to Pitt will ultimately hurt the surrounding community and Pennsylvania as a whole.
But Pitt wasn't the only school under the knife. State-owned and state-affiliated universities stood to receive massive funding cuts as well, including Penn State and Temple University, the latter of which held its own rally in March.
Fortunately, June 29 marked a huge victory for students and parents in Pennsylvania as the Senate passed the budget bill, reversing the cuts to state-related universities which were originally proposed by Governor Corbett. So, now universities will receive the same amount of money they received during 2011-2012. For the University of Pittsburgh, that is about $136 million, up from the below $100 million Corbett initially proposed. Apparently, the citizens of Pennsylvania spoke out, and their voices made a difference to their state legislators, many of whom are facing election challenges this fall. (Note that Governor Corbett is not facing an election this November).
The reversal of the budget cuts is such a victory because the education of our students is essential to our prosperity. Pennsylvania students need to have affordable higher education available to them. It was decidedly short-sighted for Governor Corbett to think that increasing college costs for state schools would be politically acceptable.
But politics aside, if Pennsylvania students and their families cannot pay competitive in-state rates for tuition and other college costs, there can be no real expectation that Pennsylvanians can compete nationally in the job market. So too, America’s kids cannot be expected to compete on the international job market with the costs of a college education as high as they presently are. Reversing the Governor’s proposed cuts to schools like Pitt, Penn State, and Temple was a move in the right direction, but more needs to be done to make college more affordable.
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