from Josh Young for State Representative
If bill passes, expect higher tuition, less opportunity
Recently Senators Andrew Dinniman and Robert Tomlinson proposed Senate Bill 1275 that is aimed at allowing larger and financially stable universities in Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education to break away from that system and become a state related university like Penn State, Temple, University of Pittsburgh and Lincoln Universities.
As a former chairman of the Slippery Rock University Council of Trustees I find this bill to be another example of Harrisburg’s lack of commitment to our public education system and the start of another broken promise to Pennsylvanians. I strongly disagree with the senators and believe that allowing West Chester University to leave the State System, which is the purpose of this bill, would result in the beginning of the collapse of the entire system.
The state system is made up of 14 universities in every corner of the Commonwealth and includes small, medium and large universities. We should remember that all of the universities were originally set up as normal schools, then state teachers colleges, then universities. The purposes of these schools was to create well-educated teachers for our public schools. Then, when the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) was created in 1983 the mission became a low cost four-year college degree opportunity for all Pennsylvanians. At the time, Governor Thornburg and the state legislature believed that it was in the interest of the Commonwealth to have a college educated public that did not burden them with massive debt, and they were right.
The state system, similar to the NFL and Major League Baseball, depends on major markets teams paying in to support the small market teams. The same happens with our state schools, big schools, like West Chester, help off set the costs at Clarion, Edinboro, Mansfield and Cheyney. This bill will put Mansfield, a small university in the northern tier, and Cheyney, the only Historically Black University in the State System, in real jeopardy.
As always, the problem is funding. Fast-forward to today and the State System faces enormous challenges. One main cause of the financial struggles for the universities lays squarely at the feet of the lawmakers in Harrisburg. In 1970 about 70% of the budget of the system came from the state appropriations with the students picking up the 30% cost. Today, less than 30% of the systems budget comes from state appropriations and the students are picking up most of the rest.
Today the average student college loan debt for the class of 2012 was $29,200, up $2,800 from 2011. In case you missed it, West Chester University ranked 77 in Kiplinger’s list of Best Values in Public Colleges Under $33,000. If this bill passes, tuition at West Chester and the remaining PASSHE schools is going to explode. Private colleges and the original state related schools, Penn State, Temple, University of Pittsburgh and Lincoln University have raised tuition at a faster pace than the state-owned schools. If West Chester University leaves the State System there will be increased tuition for both the remaining PASSHE schools and West Chester. This bill will have a domino effect raising college tuition across the board and putting college out of reach for many who need it….
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