By Dana Reese (Email Dana at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
On Tuesday, February 7th, Governor Tom Corbett presented his 2012-2013 Pennsylvania budget proposal which would cut about 20% of funding to the PASSHE system, including East Stroudsburg University.
Faculty and students in The State System of Higher Education would be looking at large cuts again if Governor Corbett’s proposal were to pass as written. More cuts to schools such as ESU could result in higher tuition, programs being cut or faculty removal.
“We need a budget that employs simple honesty for the common growth of our commonwealth,” Governor Corbett said, ending his budget address. While organizations across the state might agree with him on this final point, many believe the proposal does not facilitate “common growth.” Categorized as “bare-bones,” the proposal is a build on the cuts to higher education Governor Corbett requested within last year’s budget.
After the over 50% cut requested in the 2011-2012 fiscal proposal, which was cut to about 18%, there is an expectation Governor Corbett will again propose large cuts from higher education. Adding another 20% on top of the 18% cuts last year and the 5% freeze this year would set the cuts closer to the original 50% mark than the PASSHE system had previously hoped.
“Public university students at ESU deserve a high quality education. Association of Pennsylvania State College & University Faculties (APSCUF) remains extremely concerned that the Governor’s latest proposed cuts would lower funding for ESU to the level it was in 1989,” said Dr. Nancy VanArsdale, President of ESU APSCUF. PASSHE, in a press release following the budget proposal, also expressed concerns about increasing budget cuts to higher education.
“We fully recognize the financial challenges facing the Commonwealth. Governor Corbett was right in saying that education is a key to the state’s financial recovery… However, our joint goals are at risk as a result of the budget blueprint for the Commonwealth presented today, which provides only $2 million more than the system received 24 years ago in 1988-89. During that period we have added 23,000 students.”
What does this mean for the average ESU student? Most likely, the school will follow a similar pattern as it did last year to deal with the state cuts.
“Our students had to pay a 7.5% increase for this current academic year. Faculty took no pay raise. Class sizes that used to be 40 increased to 150-200 students. More than 25 faculty were not rehired to work at ESU in Fall 2011,” said Dr. VanArsdale.
This budget proposal comes on top of the 5% freeze Governor Corbett requested from PASSHE in January, which according to APSCUF amounts to about $20 million extra from last year’s budget. Cutting another 20% in the coming year would detract another $82 million.
“Every school in Pennsylvania should be our best,” Governor Corbett said during his budget address. As students in the PASSHE system look at the results of the last fiscal year budget, they may not feel their best.
A growing fear is that the schools will be forced to raise tuition again, even after President Obama’s call to stop increasing tuition rates during his State of the Union address.
Ron Teaford, an ESU senior, expressed worries about how ESU would cover another cut in funding.
“Increased class sizes, more than what they are now, will be a problem. Faculty firings are already a problem. The tuition hikes were pretty bad when they were talked about before, and we can hardly afford this stuff already.”
While Governor Corbett has met many of his stated goals, including writing a budget that does not directly raise taxes and cutting the deficit, he is facing heavy criticism for cutting from higher education for the second year in a row.
“Two decades ago, the Commonwealth used to pay most of the costs for a Pennsylvania student’s college education. Putting all the burden of the tough economy on the backs of today’s college students just isn’t fair,” said Dr. VanArsdale. “The Governor evidently thinks it is no problem for families today to have to pay over 80% of college costs at ESU. This current generation of college students needs to rise up and challenge why they aren’t worthy of appropriate amounts of state funding compared to previous generations of college students. My generation received high levels of funding. Why are 20-year-olds today less deserving?”
Students on campus may remember the rallies of the Spring 2011 semester, and should expect similar outreach to students. APSCUF will be organizing tables with postcards to send to representatives again this year, as well as meetings to plan ways to fight the proposed cuts.
“Students, their families and faculty need to rally together and oppose the cuts that will hurt our educational institution,” said Dr. VanArsdale. As groups against the budget cuts continue to organize on campus, students can expect to see resistance to the budget proposal as the summer deadline draws closer.