Report finds state-owned colleges rely more on tuition fees for higher education funding

CBS 21

A new report details the low levels of funding for higher education in Pennsylvania.

The report by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association finds that for the first time ever, most states are relying on tuition dollars for funding than they are state funding. Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire and Delaware are among the worst, where over 70 percent of higher education funding came from tuition dollars last year, the report states.

"We are about $460 million in funding from the state. That's about what we got in 2002," says Kenn Marshall with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). "We had a very significant cut of about $90 million dollars in 2010 and 2011 and we are just now recovering slightly from that."

Officials say states are continuing to struggle to return levels of higher education funding to levels seen before the Great Recession. The Pennsylvania Treasury Department has said 90 percent of jobs created after the recession require some form of higher education.

"Our universities are struggling, but they're not struggling because they can't get students. They're struggling because the funds aren't there," says Kenneth Mash with the Association of Pennsylvania State College & University Faculties (APSCUF).

PASSHE covers the 14-state owned universities including Shippensburg University and Millersville University. Marshall confirms about 73 percent of its budget comes from tuition and fees, 27 percent comes from the state.

"Over the last decade, our universities combined have reduced their budgets by $320 million. [What that may look like] is it may mean fewer sections of courses. It may mean maintenance projects get delayed," says Marshall.

The report also finds financial aid assistance has increased 86 percent, meaning more debt for students upon graduation.

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The lack of state funding is a reason APSCUF is in support of the "Pennsylvania Promise." In January, The Keystone Research Center and the Pa. Budget and Policy Center authored the report, which details a plan that could reduce tuition for 137,000 students a year.

If approved by the legislature, the Pennsylvania Promise program would cover four years of tuition and fees for recent high school graduates with an annual family income of $110,000 or less at any of the 14 PASSHE schools. It would also cover two years of tuition and fees for any recent high school graduate enrolled full-time at any of the state's 14 public community colleges.

"This isn't free college because it doesn't cover all the expenses of going to college," says Mash. "What this is, I think, is a reset to the point where once again, college can be affordable and students have the opportunity to achieve the American dream."

The Pennsylvania Promise program doesn't stop there. The authors also outline a plan for four years of grants, up to $11,000, for students going to any of the four state-related universities: Penn State, Temple, Pittsburgh and Lincoln.

Marshall says any conversation about an increase for student support is a "good conversation to have."

Both officials believe students, parents and families need to get involved in the fight for increased funding for it to change.

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