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Strategic Budget Advisory Committee (SBAC)
Strategic Budget Advisory Committee

Rendell Decreases Funds to University

February 5, 2009

By Ben Skalina
Daily Collegian Staff Writer

Rendell Cuts Back

Gov. Ed Rendell released his budget recommendations for the 2009-2010 fiscal year Wednesday, announcing his intention to decrease Penn State's allotment of state money by $20.3 million.

The Governor's recommendation is for the university to receive $318.1 million in state money, a 6-percent drop from the 2008-09 budget. Overall, Pennsylvania's four state-related universities will see a 6 percent cut in funding for the upcoming fiscal year.

"The [state's] revenue collections dictate the amount that we can spend on the budget," Rendell spokesman Chuck Ardo said. "And we do our best to allocate funds in the fairest way possible."

Penn State was originally given $338.4 million by the commonwealth for the 2008-09 fiscal year, but the state withheld $21.2 of that amount because of revenue shortfalls.

Rendell also introduced the Pennsylvania Tuition Relief Act in the budget proposal, which -- if approved -- will legalize video poker in Pennsylvania to provide tuition relief to students at the state's community colleges and state-owned universities. Penn State and the three other state-related universities were not included in the proposed law.

Penn State President Graham Spanier said in a press release issued Wednesday the university is ready to deal with a smaller check from Harrisburg.

"The university understands the extraordinary circumstances faced by the Commonwealth and is prepared to do its part," Spanier said. "The university will manage by freezing employee salaries next year and by implementing internal budget reductions. We also will do everything possible to hold tuition increases to the same level we announced last fall as our initial plan for 2009-10."

The Board of Trustees last fall planned a 4.5 percent tuition increase for out-of-state students and a 5.5 percent tuition increase for in-state students for the 2009-10 school year. Those numbers were dependent on the state approving an appropriation of $377 million for the university, according to a press release from the September board meeting.

Spanier and other leaders from Pennsylvania's state-related universities will meet with the state House of Representatives Appropriations Committee on March 2.

State Sen. Jake Corman (R-34th) said the Governor's budget proposal was "disappointing."

"He's funded the basic education level very strongly," Corman said. "He's not really funded the higher education level at all. That's frustrating. He says since he doesn't control the Penn State budget, he's not comfortable funding it at a higher level."

Corman, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, added finding new revenue between now and the budget's final approval will be difficult, but he hopes some money can be found for the university.

"I think that higher education is a much higher priority than the Governor did," he said. "As we go through the negotiation process, hopefully we can find some more money."