Posted February 23, 2012

President Hart takes Temple's case against budget cuts to Harrisburg

Governor proposes 30 percent reduction in Commonwealth appropriation

President Ann Weaver Hart presented the case for Temple support to members of the state House of Representatives on Wednesday during a three-hour hearing before the House Appropriations Committee.

Hart told legislators the proposal by Gov. Tom Corbett to reduce the Commonwealth appropriation to Temple and other state-related schools by 30 percent would particularly hurt those students who can least afford to take on more debt. Corbett's proposal was part of his 2012-13 budget plan, announced earlier this month.

Seated with the leaders of Penn State University, the University of Pittsburgh and Lincoln University, Hart told legislators that the cuts represent a significant portion of Temple’s operating budget for its university enterprise.

If approved, the Commonwealth appropriation for Temple would be reduced by nearly $42 million to approximately $98 million. Taking into account the 19 percent reduction in the current fiscal year, plus a 5 percent "freeze" imposed by the governor in January, Temple's Commonwealth appropriation will fall by about 50 percent over two years, if the governor's plan is approved by the General Assembly.

In responding to questions, Hart told legislators on Wednesday that if the university tried to make up for the lost Commonwealth support through tuition alone, it would mean a substantial increase, especially for in-state students. While Temple would not take that route, Hart said any large increase in tuition would "have a disproportionate impact on disadvantaged students and their families."

The president said that over the years, the university has seen a direct correlation between jumps in tuition and declines in Commonwealth support. This is especially true for in-state students, who now pay about $10,000 less than their out-of-state counterparts.

Hart also echoed comments by the presidents of Pittsburgh and Penn State, who want to know what course the state has for its state-related schools. Severe declines in support appear to support the idea that the state-related schools could find themselves becoming private, a prospect that was not supported by the presidents.

"We simply can't do business as usual, year in and year out," said Penn State's President Rodney Erickson said. "We need to know where this is heading."

All the presidents said the cuts would also hurt the communities where they are located, and where they serve as economic powerhouses.

Wednesday's comments were the second major response from President Hart since the governor's budget was announced on Feb. 7. In a video released immediately after Corbett's announcement, Hart said that while she understands the governor's proposal, the impact would be widespread if the Commonwealth appropriation is reduced as the he recommends.

"We understand that the Commonwealth is facing difficult budget decisions. As the state has struggled through a challenging economy, Temple has responded by cutting millions from its operating budget, streamlining processes, eliminating redundancies and reducing administrative staff," Hart said in a video response to the governor's address.

"We have become leaner and more focused on a quality education. That effort continues," said Hart. In fact, Temple has already reduced its operating budgets by $83 million over the last three years through these cost-saving measures.

"The Governor's plan, however, is not one that can be met by cutting costs," said Hart. "If approved by the General Assembly, this reduction in support will be felt by every student, parent and employee."

The president urged Temple's students and their parents, as well as all employees and alumni to work together to stand with Temple in the effort to build Commonwealth support.

"I urge you to let your legislators know how vital their support is for schools like Temple. The best way to make your voices heard is through TALON, the Temple Advocates Legislative Outreach Network," said the president.

She noted that last year, when the governor recommended reducing Commonwealth support to Temple by more than 50 percent, a massive effort by university supporters helped convince lawmakers to restore some of the reduction. In the end, Temple's Commonwealth appropriation was reduced by about 19 percent.

"Temple is dedicated to providing a high quality urban education at the best possible price. We can only do this with your support," said Hart. "I urge you to join TALON, and stand with Temple, in support of our students."