Guest blogger: Debbie Smith
The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) boasts 14 high quality universities across the Commonwealth. To quote the PASSHE website, “Nearly 500,000 PASSHE alumni live in Pennsylvania, serving as community leaders in the business, healthcare, public administration and non-profit sectors while generating an aggregate annual income of $7 billion. PASSHE is the 13th largest employer in the state, with more than 12,150 professional and support staff.” Quite impressive!
Three of my four children found a college home at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, a state school, where my youngest is now in his Junior year. Imagine my horror in hearing that our illustrious Governor wants to cut funding to the PASSHE schools by a whopping 50%! I’m dreading what my son’s next tuition bill may look like if these cuts go through.
When I called my representative, Doyle Heffley, about this, he agreed that the proposed cuts were too deep, but he also wanted to put a lot of blame on the colleges. He said they got more money every year, yet still raised tuition. However, in doing some research, I found that the costs to run a college have gone up astronomically for many reasons that you will find familiar: higher fuel and food costs, higher costs for medical insurance and more demand for costly technology, just to name a few. In the past decade, state colleges have been struggling to keep tuition costs down by cutting programs, increasing class sizes, not replacing retiring staff members or cutting back on capital improvements. Since 1983, the percentage of the state budget that goes to higher education has steadily decreased. And now this.
What affect would such drastic cuts have? Tuition hikes, coupled with possible cuts to federal Pell grants (being proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives now) would mean fewer middle- to low-income students can attend college in Pennsylvania. Those who do manage to go would be facing larger student loan payments after college.
The Pennsylvania budget should not be balanced on the backs of college students and their parents. The majority of students who attend the state schools are not wealthy; most are there at least partly because of the affordability. Pennsylvania needs educated citizens, and the opportunity to get a a higher education should not be reserved for the well-off. We need our state colleges to remain affordable.
Please call or write your legislators if you feel this is an important issue. I did.