The ongoing budget impasse in Harrisburg has been especially frustrating to Pennsylvania’s state-related universities, which have been counting on a roughly $650 million allocation from the state to subsidize lower tuition rates for students who live in the commonwealth.
The allocation is negotiated and approved yearly by lawmakers, and this year, in the midst of a long-overdue budget plan, there is no consensus on how to pay for it.
That’s leading some in Harrisburg to fear that these funds could become a casualty of the negotiation process — a way of helping lawmakers avoid enacting some sort of tax increase.
“There’s just increasing concern that the longer this goes, that that’s the plan to fill the budget hole: to very simply not fund the state-related universities,” said Jennifer Kocher, spokeswoman for Senate Majority leader Jake Corman (R-Centre).
Corman’s district includes Penn State University, which has been counting on $230 million in state aid.
“The absence of an appropriation would result in a direct impact on our students and their families, since these funds are used to keep tuition lower for Pennsylvania students,” said Penn State President Eric J. Barron in a statement. “Without this critical funding from the Commonwealth, we will be unable to run our extension programs that impact Pennsylvanians in all 67 counties. This would be a devastating outcome, but we remain hopeful that our state legislators can come together in support of Penn State, which creates more than $17 billion in economic impact for the state and educates tens of thousands of students annually.”