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Lawmakers Ask University Heads to Justify Spending Proposal Increases

Lincoln University of Pennsylvania

Funding for higher education was the topic of the day as the House Appropriations Committee held a hearing with leaders of the four state-related universities.

Presidents of Penn State, the University of Pittsburgh, Temple and Lincoln University gathered in Harrisburg to justify the boost in subsidies that is more than $32 million in Gov. Josh Shapiro’s 2023-24 budget.

Shapiro has proposed a 7.1 percent funding increase for the four institutions, while the schools that make up the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education are slated to receive an additional 2.0 percent.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s 2022-23 Almanac, Temple and Pitt are among the top-10 most expensive 4-year public institutions in the country with in-state costs (tuition, room and board) listed at $32,526 and $32,182, respectively. Penn State is 13th, costing $31,642 per year.

Only William & Mary ($37,548), Colorado School of Mines ($34,824), the University of California-Berkeley ($34,462), the University of Massachusetts-Boston ($32,811) and UC-Merced ($32,558) are more expensive than Temple.

Since 2002, Temple’s share of revenue from state support has dropped from 32 percent to just 7.1 percent in 2020. Pitt’s support has declined from 21.2 percent in 2003 to 12.1 percent in 2020, while Lincoln seen a 6.7% decrease to 29.9 percent. Penn State has submitted just data from 2020 to the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

“This chamber struggles between balancing the policy debate of direct funding for students or continued select funding of individual universities,” state Rep. Eric Nelson (R-Westmoreland) said.

Temple’s president, Dr. Jason Wingard, spoke to declining enrollment at universities and colleges. Affordability, mental health supports and degree value are three aspects most greatly impacting enrollment, he said.

University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said the school exclusively uses the state’s annual general support subsidy — proposed at $162,264,000 in 2023-24 — to reduce tuition rates for in-state students.

“The University of Pittsburgh almost doubles that investment by providing a much lower in-state tuition rate than the appropriation alone would account for,” Gallagher said.

Tuition increases were approved by all four institutions for the current academic year and, when asked by state Rep. Ryan Warner (R-Fayette),  none of the four leaders would commit to a tuition freeze if they were to receive the full funding increase.

“At Lincoln, we are 70 percent tuition-dependent,”said President Brenda Allen, the head of the nation’s first degree-granting Historically Black College and University (HBCU). “We are obligated for increases, inflation is through the roof. Just to manage the budget we could not do without a small tuition increase.”

New Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi noted that while much of the endowment money universities receive is restricted for specific uses such as hiring faculty or research. Penn State spends about five percent of the interest earned from its endowment on student scholarships. Gallagher added that Pitt spends all of the money earned from its non-designated endowments toward financial aid.

Endowment Totals FY 2022

  • University of Pittsburgh, $5,528,910,000
  • The Pennsylvania State University, $4,607,961,000
  • Temple University, $778,415,000
  • Lincoln University, N/A


source: NACUBO survey

Pitt ranks 26th and Penn State 29th nationally, according to the survey conducted by NACUBO – the National Association of College and University Business Officers. For comparison, the University of Texas System endowment is second only to Harvard’s at $42.7B. The University of Michigan ($17.3B), and the University of California ($15.4B) are all state systems north of the $10 billion mark.

Bendapudi said less than 10 percent of all donations is done with no restrictions. For example, many donors wish to place names on newly-constructed buildings or attached to academic scholarships. One could even toss in donations to the Nittany Lion Club among that larger amount.

Allen made the point about the difference between tuition and the “true cost” of education.

“For a Lincoln student who’s a Pennsylvania resident that gap is usually about $6,000 to $7,000 a year,” Allen said. “It doesn’t seem like a lot for people who have means but for low income families $7,000 might as well be $70,000 in order to help them to fulfill their dreams.”

Wingard also spoke to declining enrollment at universities and colleges. Affordability, mental health supports and degree value are three aspects most greatly impacting enrollment, he said.

He said Temple is emphasizing financial aid and academic supports, helping students graduate on time and not accumulate added debt for an extra semester or two.

Wingard, along with Provost Greg Mandel and Chief Operating Officer Ken Kaiser, is facing an April 10 no-confidence vote by the Temple Association of University Professionals (TAUP) that represents all faculty, professional librarians and academic professionals in the 13 schools and colleges enrolling undergraduate students the school.

4 Responses

  1. Penn State needs to me more transparent. It is common knowledge most of their 22 branch campuses are bleeding enrollment and money and students at the main campus pay higher tuition to make up for the loss.

    1. Not only are penn states branch campuses draining from the main campus but they also drain enrollment from neighboring state schools. The solution is consolidating the number of Penn state branches

  2. Apples and oranges are not the same. Neither are PA state universities and state-related universities. The former are totally public, while the latter are private with a State relationship, which generally means their tuition is less for PA resident students. Does the GOP advocate hamstringing these valuable state-related institutions? Inflation was 9% last year, the subsidy increase is only 7%. Thus, the universities could argue the increase actually underfunds them. But then, education is a foreign concept to the MAGA GOP rabble.

    1. Gulag – do you still think Mike Stack is a Republican?

      We have too many higher ed institutions. They are not preparing students for the needs of tomorrow or today.

      The system needs to adapt to declining enrollment and a supersaturated higher ed market.

      They get too much and do too little. Invest that money in community colleges and trade programs instead.


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