Temple University targeted for political payback
Having spent the better part of last week arguing with State Senator Daylin Leach over the morality of raising taxes, the perils of public dependency on poorly provided government services and the amount of wasted taxpayer dollars, it appears I’m about to eat my words.
As the parent of a Temple University sophomore, I received an urgent email in my inbox yesterday from Temple stating that funding in the amount of $175 million was going to be withheld by the state legislature, which, if it happened, would necessitate a rise in tuition of $5,000 per year or 45%.
As I did not have all of the facts at my disposal, I naturally assumed that this was part of the PA Budget cuts I argued for so forcefully last week with Daylin Leach. I asked my co-worker whose daughter is starting at Pitt in a few weeks if she received a similar email, becuase I was aware that the “state affiliated” schools–Temple, Pitt, Lincoln and Penn State—had been targeted for budget cuts, but because I had just paid my daughter’s tuition bill for the fall semester, I had seen that in spite of those cuts that the University had been successfulll in holding down costs and was only implementing a 2.5% increase in tuition for the 2009-10 year. Was this something new, I wondered, and was it another budget cut that was going to affect the other state-affiliated schools?
Indeed, upon researching the matter I found that Rendell had implemented funding cuts of $21 Million for this year, which, obviously, the University was unhappy about, but made the necessary adjustments to their budget. The June 30, 2009 press release from Temple’s web site:
Temple University, with the other state-related universities, received bad news last week. Gov. Ed Rendell announced his intent to cut the Commonwealth’s appropriation to the four state-related universities for the coming fiscal year by 12.8 percent, and declared that Temple, Penn State, Pitt, and Lincoln universities were being cut out of federal stimulus funding. For Temple University, this would mean an appropriation cut of more than $21 million in addition to the loss of $10.5 million in expected stimulus funding.
Rendell made the announcement on Friday, as part of a sweeping series of budget cuts designed to help balance the 2009-2010 state budget, as required by the state Constitution.
While the four state-related universities were hit with the 12.8 percent appropriation reduction in the Governor’s proposal, the colleges and universities that are part of the State System of Higher Education and the community colleges were not subject to the same cuts because of requirements for the state to receive federal stimulus funding.
The Governor declared the state-related schools were “not public” because they are not under his “complete control,” and therefore could be excluded from the requirements for federal stimulus funding.
“The Governor’s position flies in the face of the Temple University-Commonwealth Act that made Temple an instrumentality of the Commonwealth and an integral part of the state’s system of higher education in 1965,” said George Moore, senior vice president and university counsel. “It also appears to contradict the terms and intent of the federal stimulus bill.
“The state of Pennsylvania has benefitted greatly from its state-related schools,” Moore added. The Governor’s position will not only do great harm to the state-related schools, but will adversely impact the many Pennsylvania students and their families who depend on us for their futures.”
I can live with the belt tightening. Indeed, I applaud it. I’m not happy about perpetual tuition increases, and, though I am very happy withthe quality of education my daughter is getting at Temple, I think that a college education in general is already overpriced, but I am willing to suck up the cost of incremental cuts if they are fiscally necessary.
This $175 million cut is something else, however. This is political payback from a local politician who is miffed at Temple for closing a hospital in his district that was on track to lose some $15 million last year:
Hundreds of Temple University students were on red alert yesterday when they learned of a legislative effort to deprive the college of $175 million in state and federal funds.
Temple officials said that the loss in funding would lead to a $5,000 increase in tuition for undergraduates, sending students into a tizzy on Facebook and Twitter.
Many were unaware that state Rep. John Taylor and other lawmakers had taken steps to make good on a pledge made several months ago, during an ill-fated battle to save Northeastern Hospital, to withhold the funds.
Temple University Health System closed the longtime Port Richmond hospital on June 30 because of financial losses.
Taylor told the Daily News on Tuesday that a bill that would provide Temple with the $175 million through a nondeferred appropriation was pulled from the House of Representatives. Bills regarding other state universities were allowed to move to the next step.
The Temple bill was scheduled to be reintroduced yesterday, but “we got it delayed again,” Taylor said.
House members won’t vote on appropriations for Temple and other universities until after the state budget is settled.
Two-thirds of the House must vote in favor of each school’s appropriation for it to pass. Taylor said he believes that he’s convinced lawmakers to vote against awarding Temple any funds.
“I think I had a lot of those votes secured way back,” he said. “Once members make commitments to other members, it’s hard to change that.”
While I still feel like I’m compromising my principles somewhat by contacting my congressmen in support of Temple, this is not a budget issue; it’s political blackmail between this congressman’s ego and the University with the parents and students caught in the middle; it’s not like witholding this funding is going to bring back Northeastern Hospital. But like many legislators who let their egos get in the way of their constituencies, Rep. John Taylor is only concerned with making the University sweat by withholding money that belongs to the taxpayers. He is not punishing Temple, he’s punishing the students, and Temple, apparently, is well aware of that, hence the outreach to parents, student and alumni.
We budgeted my daughter’s college savings payments based upon our estimates of what Temple’s tuition would be. Effectively doubling that tuition will make continuing her education there impossible. This situation applies to all of Temples 27,000 students as well.
Here is Temple’s new release about the witholding of funds. Temple is a great school and I urge readers to contact their representatives in support of Temple University.