March 9, 2011
Today, the University of Pittsburgh and the other state related universities received potentially devastating news when Governor Tom Corbett presented his proposed budget for fiscal year 2012. Pitt, Penn State, Temple and Lincoln Universities are targeted with extreme, severe and disproportionate cuts to their already comparatively low-level of state support. If enacted, funding reductions of this magnitude will have a drastically negative impact on Pitt students and their families, and on the economy of Western Pennsylvania. The proposed budget would cut Pitt's appropriation by $110 million.
When Pitt became a state-related university in 1966, there was an implicit promise that Pitt would receive an annual Commonwealth appropriation sufficient to offer Pennsylvania students the highest quality education at an affordable tuition--significantly less than that charged to non-Pennsylvania students and dramatically less than the tuition at comparable private universities. In the interests of Pennsylvania's high-achieving students and their families, and the interests of the economic health and survival of Western Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth should uphold its commitment to these millions of Pennsylvania citizens.
Pitt has shouldered more than its fair share of the cutbacks in state funding over the past decade (with reductions to our appropriation in six of the past ten years) and did not benefit from the nearly 40 percent increase in the state budget over the past eight years. In fact, the Commonwealth invests less state dollars in Pitt today than it did ten years ago. The University has worked successfully to reduce costs and implement efficiencies in employee benefits, energy conservation, strategic purchasing and many other areas. Even with these efficiencies, the proposed funding reduction will have a dramatic impact on tuition for Pennsylvania students and their families, and for staffing levels, salaries and construction projects.
While the large deficit facing the Commonwealth presents daunting budget challenges, investment in public higher education is a necessity in order for Pennsylvania students to have affordable access to the high quality education needed for the new technology-oriented economy. Investment in public higher education is also needed if Pitt is to continue its proven track record of increasing employment and economic activity in our home regions. In the current economy, the Commonwealth should be investing in successful job generators and economic engines like Pitt. That is the reason other states with very large budget deficits, like Virginia, ARE investing in public higher education, even as large cuts are planned throughout other areas of their state budgets.
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