Jul. 17, 2023

As the state budget impasse continues in Harrisburg, one sticking point is funding for higher education – more specifically, the four “state-related” universities of Pitt, Penn State, Temple and Lincoln. 

I am one of 73 members to vote “no” on a bill that would have sent $642.2 million collectively to these universities for the 2023-24 Fiscal Year. Because the bill requires a two-thirds majority vote to pass, the measure failed.

Why would I oppose funding for higher education?

First and foremost, I do NOT oppose funding for higher education. 

I oppose taxpayer funding for these institutions that are not fully controlled by the Commonwealth but are instead run by their own boards of trustees. 

I oppose taxpayer funding for institutions that are not transparent in how they spend taxpayer dollars and are not subject to the state’s Right-to-Know law. 

Most importantly, I oppose taxpayer funding for institutions that claim to use state funding to provide tuition discounts to in-state students but in the same breath, three of the four university leaders testify before lawmakers they will increase tuition regardless of how much money they get from the state. Lincoln was the only one to commit to a tuition freeze.

Make no mistake, these universities are well-funded. The University of Pittsburgh has a $5.5 billion endowment. Penn State has $4.6 billion, and Temple $778 million (information about Lincoln was unavailable). 

The claims that they can’t afford to freeze tuition ring hollow.

Conversely, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), which includes PennWest California University, has frozen tuition in each of the last four years. These universities and their leadership recognize our kids deserve an affordable higher education. Rather than saddle those students and their families with higher tuition and debt, PASSHE consolidated some of its universities in a way that saves money but doesn’t sacrifice the high-quality educational opportunities they provide. 

It’s also worth noting PASSHE universities are fully subject to the state’s Right-to-Know law. 

I will always support our students seeking a post-secondary education, but I will not blindly send hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars to institutions that are continually hiking tuition for our kids regardless of what we do. 

Just because this is how it’s been done doesn’t mean it has to continue that way. If these universities are unwilling to be more transparent and to keep tuition affordable for in-state students, it may be time to direct funding to students directly rather than institutions.

Representative Bud Cook
50th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Patricia Hippler
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