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Pitt students lobby for more funding for state-related universities

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

Budget season is underway in Harrisburg, and state-related universities, including the University of Pittsburgh, are lobbying for state funding for the next fiscal year. About 100 people from all five Pitt campuses made the trip to the state capitol in Harrisburg on Tuesday to drive home that message.

Pitt got $151.5 million in the 2021-22 budget. That money goes towards a tuition discount for in-state students.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year would include a 5% increase.

“Going into the college process, I had to be realistic about my finances,” said Dominic Victoria, a Pitt sophomore and the government relations chair of Pitt’s Student Government Board.

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He said he considered more expensive out-of-state options before deciding on Pitt.

“I probably could have made it work, but I almost certainly would have graduated with debt,” he said. “I can say without a doubt that I will graduate without debt as a result of the in-state tuition cut.”

But some advocates worry the appropriation might not pass.

“It’s always a concern, and it’s something we can absolutely never take for granted,” said Pitt Vice Chancellor for Community and Government Relations Paul Supowitz. He said some view universities as “very liberal places.”

“We’re living in politically fraught times, and we’re not immune to those things,” he said.

But Supowitz said the benefits of funding higher education are important. Cheaper tuition can make a big difference in whether students choose to stay in the state or leave.

“Having in-state tuition for me, and I think for a lot of other people, just makes it more realistic for me to stay,” Victoria said.

According to Pitt, the current in-state tuition discount reduces the cost of an undergraduate education by an average of $60,000 over four years.

“If we don’t have that appropriation and we don’t have that support, then all of a sudden that in-state tuition discount isn’t available,” said Supowitz. “It’s akin to a tax increase for Pennsylvania families.”

By law, the state must have a budget finalized by June 30.

Julia Zenkevich reports on Allegheny County government for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at