Letter to the Editor graphic

This letter was written by Sydney Gibbard, president of the University Park Undergraduate Association at Penn State.

To the students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni and friends of Penn State —

I call on our community to sign Advocate Penn State's petition that calls for fair funding for Penn State students, and join forces with me and so many others in this fight. Let me set the scene for you:

Penn State receives an annual appropriation from the Pennsylvania state government. This money goes directly toward helping to keep Penn State education affordable for students and their families, and it represents an investment into the commonwealth. Despite inflation, the rising costs of education and the growth of Penn State, the university's general support appropriation has remained stagnant since a 2% rise in the 2019-20 fiscal year.

When comparing Penn State’s general support funding with our peer state-related universities and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, Penn State is severely underfunded on a per-Pennsylvania resident student basis. In 2022-23, Penn State received $242.1 million for the university’s general support appropriation, which is about $5,608 per Pennsylvania resident student. Penn State more than doubles this amount to reduce the cost of attending Penn State by an average of $13,000 annually for students who are Pennsylvania residents. Compared to the general support funding that other state-related universities in Pennsylvania receive, Penn State ranks last on a resident student basis. Temple, the next lowest funded state-related university on a resident student basis, receives nearly $8,275 per student, which is several thousand more per student than Penn State.

As the president of the University Park Undergraduate Association, I strongly believe Penn State should receive an appropriation that is more comparable to our peer schools. It is for this reason that I stand with the university’s leaders and support their request for an increase of $115 million (a 47.6% increase) to the state appropriation. If you agree, I urge you to sign the petition to show support for your fellow students.

Further, I believe that an investment in Penn State supports communities throughout Pennsylvania. Penn State has a campus within 30 miles of 96% of the state’s population and contributes more than $11.6 billion per year to the economy of Pennsylvania through the direct employment of faculty and staff, entrepreneurship and innovation, research in agriculture and STEM fields, construction of facilities, and educating the future workforce of the commonwealth.

Penn State has been operating at sub-inflation for both tuition and state appropriations for more than a decade and continues to do so even after this year’s tuition increase. Doing so has required the university to work hard to contain and reduce costs as much as possible.

As a student, I have seen the impact of the state’s lack of support in higher tuition costs for my family and underfunded academic and extracurricular programs. I have seen faculty and staff impacted by this through salary raises that don’t match inflation, which limits our ability to recruit and retain talented faculty and staff. I have seen this impact on basic university-provided services like University Health Services. If you think this doesn’t affect you, it does. And it will continue to do so if we don’t fight for Penn State together.

If we want Penn State to continue being a leader in world-class education, then we MUST take action. Every single one of you has the ability to do so by signing Advocate Penn State’s petition organized by its Office of Government and Community Relations. The petition is essential as advocates begin to introduce themselves and their priorities to new and returning elected officials, including 50 new Pennsylvania House representatives and senators, along with a new governor’s administration.

Students, do you want the power to keep tuition in check? I implore you to take just 30 seconds and fill out the petition so we can show Pennsylvania legislators that’s what Penn State students need.

This is the best way you can advocate for the cost of your own tuition and better-funded programs at Penn State — please join me in the fight.

If you're interested in submitting a Letter to the Editor, click here.