State legislators call for more education funding in Pa. budget

By Eric Gibble
March 28, 2011

In order to help close the projected $5 billion 2011-12 budget deficit, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has reduced spending by over 50 percent for public higher education funding. This drastic cut has raised bipartisan concerns among local lawmakers throughout the region.

Protesters rally in Harrisburg against budget cuts proposed by Governor Tom Corbett to reduce funding of public higher education by 50 percent, as well as a 50 percent cut in grants for private higher-education institutions. --eric gibble

“52 percent of the state funding is a pretty big cut and it’s an awful lot to absorb in one year especially at this particular time in March when students are already starting to think about where they are going next year,” State Representative Chris Ross (R., Chester) said.

Visiting the campus on Friday, March 11, lawmakers expressed their distress over the challenges public higher education faces.  State Senator Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery) stated making these cuts would essentially mean abandoning education in the state.

“It’s catastrophic,” Leach said. “It’ll mean the closing of some whole campuses. It is unnecessary, it doesn’t make any budgetary sense.”

Leach was referring to Penn State University President Graham Spanier’s recent statement that in addition to raising tuition, entire campuses would be forced to shut down.  The 14 universities that comprise the State System of Higher Education would all face equal cuts across the board under Corbett’s proposed budget.

Their concerns are reflective of most Pennsylvanians in the state. Nearly 80 percent oppose deep cuts to public education according to a survey by Franklin and Marshall College.

State representative Nick Miccarelli (R., Delaware County) expressed his hope to reduce the percentage of cuts to higher education.

“I think it hurts and I think that we have to do whatever we can to reduce those cuts,” Miccarelli said.

The cuts could also force students to seek more affordable education opportunities at community colleges.

“Because students are not able to attend a university in the state system, they attend community college. More and more pressure is being placed on the community colleges to provide more programs for the students who can’t afford to go elsewhere,” State Representative Thomas Murt (R., Montgomery) said.

Murt also stated that funding for community colleges should be increased. However, if the budget is passed as it is, the community college allocations funding will be reduced by 10 percent.

“It’s very important that we provide funding and opportunities for students across Pennsylvania especially for our middle class and working class families to achieve higher education,” Murt said.

If constituents are alarmed by the proposed cuts, Greg Vitali (D., Delaware County) urged them to not to be silent and to make their voices heard.

“You have your state reps, your state senators and your governor and you need to communicate your thoughts to them in any way possible. A personal meeting with your state representative and state senator would be good starting points,” Vitali said.

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