With Gov. Tom Corbett having introduced his version of Pennsylvania’s budget, Indiana University of Pennsylvania now has a bit of a better handle on its revenue picture for next year, and officials aren’t surprised by what they’re seeing — a deficit.
Administrators had been projecting one as of last semester, partly on assumptions that the state appropriation would remain unchanged, which is precisely what the governor suggested to the General Assembly last week.
Corbett is proposing to hold the line at about $413 million for the state system, roughly the same amount it received for 1997-98, some 17 years ago, according to state system spokesman Kenn Marshall.
The appropriation is one of the key figures IUP uses to make its revenue forecasts. The others are enrollment, and tuition and fees. Tuition is set by the state system’s governing body, which usually makes that decision in the summer. IUP, however, controls its schedule of fees, and it is proposing increases for room and board as well as in a per-credit surcharge.
IUP is expecting to have to fill a $2.6 million budget hole, a figure that is not unworkable, said President Michael Driscoll.
“This is not horrific, but we do need to attend to it,” he said.
Driscoll said that while the university is glad the appropriation wasn’t cut, an increase, any increase whatsoever, would have been better.
“We do feel we are worthy of more investment,” he said.
The last time the state system received an increase in its appropriation was in 2007-08, according to Marshall.
Under the Corbett administration, the state system has seen a significant drop in funding. In his first year in office, he proposed lopping the state system’s funding by half (the Legislature approved an 18 percent reduction). In his second year, he proposed a 20 percent reduction, which the Legislature voted against, leaving it unchanged from the year prior.
It’s remained there since. And more likely than not, it will remain unchanged from what’s now on the table.
“A lot will depend on what revenue collections amount to over the next several months, but it certainly seems unlikely it would go down (from what the governor proposed),” said state Rep. Dave Reed, R-Indiana.
State Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, said there is no more room for the appropriation to go any lower.
“We’re down to skin and bones,” he said. “I don’t know where else the fat is, unless it’s in the administration.”
White said he does not understand the reluctance to put money back into the state system.
“These are our universities. We set them up, and we don’t want to fund them, and I just don’t understand.”
Nevertheless, he, too, said level funding is still better than a cut.
“I don’t have to start from scratch fighting just to get back what we had,” said White.
White said he will push for an increase to the appropriation, and he is expected to make that argument in testimony during appropriation hearings in March.
The Association of State College and University Faculties, the union representing professors and coaches at the state system schools, also said it will push for an increase of 8 percent, which works out to around $34.5 million.
“1997 funding levels are insufficient to maintain the mission to provide a high quality education at an affordable cost to students,” said Steve Hicks, the union’s president, in a statement. “Many campuses are already laying off faculty and staff, increasing class sizes, and curtailing programs. Another year of flat state funding puts additional pressure on PASSHE’s board to raise tuition and increase the financial burden on students and their families.”