Gov. Tom Corbett, accompanied by a number of state and university officials, announced a plan to not increase nor decrease funding for higher education at a Friday press conference.
Representatives from Penn State, Temple University, University of Pittsburgh and Lincoln University were present, along with Sen. Jake Corman, Rep Kerry Benninghoff, Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis, among others.
The signed 2012-13 budget included a flat appropriation for Penn State in relation to that of the previous year’s, amounting to a total of $227,694,000 total for the university, as previously reported.
Set to be delivered to the General Assembly Tuesday, Corbett’s 2013-14 proposed budget calls for a $1.58 billion investment in higher education, further suggesting that full-funding levels be maintained for state and state-related universities.
Corbett said universities, which are working in solidarity with his administration, have agreed to keep tuition as low as possible. This "agreement” will give schools the ability to better plan for the year and make the best use of their resources, he said.
He designated this mission as “the important steps we are taking to making Pennsylvania’s post-secondary education system the absolute best in the world and a system accessible to every young person in the state.”
Corbett further said last year’s state agreement resulted in the lowest increase in tuition in more than a decade, while Penn State saw its lowest tuition increase in nearly 40 years. Every school held down tuition costs at reasonable levels, he added.
The governor said they all agreed that responsible pricing of education is essential, as holding down tuition costs and increasing the level of post secondary education make up the mutual goal.
Despite a structural deficit, Sen. Corman, appropriations chair, said the state is still going to commit to fully funding higher education “at the level we did last year.”
"We understand that this is the beginning of a long process, and legislative support is required,” said Penn State Executive Vice President and Provost Rob Pangborn, adding that funding at at least last year's level is necessary.
Corbett said he deems the commitment feasible although “frankly we are in a different place than two years ago,” he said. “We don’t have the money we had seven to eight years ago.”
Moreover, Corbett said funds are limited, as many demands are weighing the state government, particularly in the welfare side.
Asked whether the state has considered alternate sources of funding for higher education, the governor acknowledged that other states possess this, but said, “one thing I’ve learned is that change is not overnight, change is slow."
Nonetheless, he said, this sparks a good dialogue between his administration and higher education institutions.
Further pressed on whether state money is given to offset the tuition for students, Corbett said he believes taxpayer dollars are used on behalf of students to keep tuition within reason, ultimately rendering the education they receive the most affordable, efficient and best quality.