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State-Owned Universities Struggling With Funding Cut

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has proposed a cut of $82 million to the 14 state-owned universities like IUP, California, Slippery Rock and Edinboro in his 2012-13 budget. This follows a $90 million reduction for the current year. That cutback amounted to about $800 per student, and resulted in a $436 tuition hike.

System Chancellor John Cavanaugh testified Tuesday before the Senate Education Committee. He said because of the governor's proposed 20% cut in the new budget schools are already taking cost-cutting measures, including the distant possibility of closing a school.

"We would have an obligation to allow students who are already at that institution to complete the degrees," Cavanaugh said. "So quite unlike in the corporate world, for example, you just go out, you turn off the lights, you take the loss on your books. It would take years to do that."

Senator Tommy Tomlinson (R-Bucks) congratulated the chancellor for keeping tuition low despite rising costs and recent state funding reductions.

"So you must be doing something to try to economize and try to live with the economic situations that we're in," Tomlinson said.

Senator Mary Jo White (R-Venango) says she'll be watching faculty and coaches to see if they agree to take salary freezes.

"I think it is time for the unions across the board to recognize that we cannot continue business as usual with automatic increases every year," White said. "People have been frozen for a long period of time on salaries here in this capitol and probably throughout your system."

However, Senator Andy Dinniman (D-Montgomery) assured the chancellor that he would fight to protect state funding for the state-owned universities.

"When we address this issue of funding, we're beyond the simple dollars and cents. We're talking about the role of public higher education within the commonwealth what that balance should be," Dinniman said.