HARRISBURG – With the state budget being eight months overdue, Temple University president Neil Theobald joined leaders from the three other state-related universities to denounce the impasse in Harrisburg.
Theobald, along with administrators from Penn State, University of Pittsburgh and Lincoln University testified in front of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees on Wednesday (March 2nd).
“Temple University is facing a $175 million budget deficit…nearly $150 million for its education programs, and another $26 million for its healthcare system” said Theobald. He argued that Temple and the other universities had done their job in providing “an excellent education” to its students, and it is now time from lawmakers to do theirs and fund the schools. Altogether, the schools are out a combined $600 million without the budget.
Temple has already begun finding alternate ways to save money by cutting cost and taking loans. President Theobald said that the university loaned $25 million of its own money to students for this fiscal year. Additionally, he cited cutting of five sports teams in spring 2014 as an effort to save, and noted the difficultly of doing so. “Boy does that lead to some blowback — if anyone else here was thinking of doing that.”
At this point, however, the universities are facing the possibility that they won’t get any money for fiscal year 2015-2016. Without state funding, there will be “crippling layoffs” with a “more than modest” tuition increase, he said.
In-state students get a $10 thousand discount from state funding, which works as a “give one, get one” operation, meaning that for every state dollar going towards a student’s tuition, Temple matches that dollar. Therefore, that “more than modest” tuition increase that President Theobald cited could be as much as $5 thousand dollars. He did say, however, that the exact number for the possible increase is still to be determined. A Temple spokesman said Temple would not “lay that [$5 thousand tuition hike] on all at once.”
In front of the Senate, Temple, Pitt and Penn State requested an 18% increase in funding while Lincoln request an 85% increase for fiscal year 2016-2017. Penn State provost Nicholas Jones said that tuition would freeze at Penn State if that request were granted. President Theobald said Temple could not make that commitment, but an 18% increase would result in the lowest possible tuition hike.
State Senators took the opportunity to question the universities as to why they deserve an increase in funding. “We’re the Pennsylvania bank. You’re coming to us for loans. We want to see your expenses,” said Senator Scott Wagner, who called for more transparency from the universities.
The House, however, spoke of a 5% increase for Temple, Pitt and Penn State and a 7% increase for Lincoln for this year. While members took turns apologizing that the funds have not been allocated, they offered no timeline of when universities could expect the money, saying that a common ground has yet to be found on the budget.
“Let’s fund these schools yesterday because that’s the right thing to do” said Representative Matthew Bradford of Montgomery County.
Theobald said both sides of the aisle want to see the schools funded. “They need to find a way to work together.”