By SUSAN JONES
Pitt will receive an extra $7.57 million in general support and $167,000 for rural education outreach from the state, as part of a deal negotiated between Gov. Tom Wolf and legislative leadership on the distribution of federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021.
“We are grateful for Gov. Wolf’s continued support of the University of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania’s students and families,” Pitt said in a statement. The $7.57 million will be used to support student financial aid.
The funds are part of a $40 million pot of money that the state legislature appropriated to the governor’s office for “pandemic response,” according to a 2022-23 budget summary released by House Democrats.
Nearly $30 million of that money has been allocated to the four state-related universities, which also include Temple, Penn State and Lincoln. These allocations fulfill Wolf’s plan to increase funding to the state-related schools by 5 percent this year. The general budget approved by the legislature kept funding flat for all four schools.
The amount going to the state-related universities was first reported by Spotlight PA as $40 million, and that number has been used widely elsewhere. But it actually is $29.85 million. The other $10 million remains and can be spent elsewhere, according to Elizabeth Rementer, press secretary for the governor.
She noted that the money for the state-related schools was negotiated as a part of the final budget with legislative leadership. “The governor cannot unilaterally distribute this funding,” she said. “Generally speaking, the governor does not have discretionary ARPA or CARES funding.”
Erica Clayton Wright, spokeswoman for state Senate Republicans, said in an email to Spotlight PA that “there was a verbal understanding that the funds would go to (the state-related universities).”
State funding for Pitt was a hot-button issue in the legislature this year, with several conservative lawmakers seeking to force Pitt to stop any research involving fetal tissue in order to receive the funds. None of the state money goes toward this or any other research. The state budget kept Pitt’s funding at $151.5 million, the same it has been since 2019. All that money is used to lower tuition for in-state students.
Republican candidate for governor Doug Mastriano, a state senator from Chambersburg, sent a letter last week to the leaders of all four state-related universities saying because of the extra money the schools will receive, they should rescind planned tuition hikes. Mastriano was among those who wanted to completely defund Pitt and one of seven senators who voted against the state-related universities funding bill.
Pitt has announced tuition increases of 2 to 5.5 percent for in-state students, depending on the school. Temple plans a 3.9 percent tuition hike for Pennsylvania students and Penn State in-state students will see a 5 percent increase.
The universities have all said they will continue with their tuition-hike plans and have noted that the extra money is a one-time infusion from federal funds that can’t be planned on in the long-run.
After imposing budget cuts the past two years, Pitt will see a $100 million increase in its operating from $2.6 billion in fiscal year 2022 to $2.7 billion for FY23, largely driven by higher undergraduate enrollment on the Oakland campus and more money coming from the endowment after a sharp increase in its market value.
The other two large, state-related schools are still facing budget constraints. Penn State announced a hiring freeze effective Aug. 1 through at least the summer of 2023, after a nearly $200 million deficit for 2021-22. Temple will cut its budget by 3.6 percent — approximately $41 million in total — to help keep tuition costs down this academic year. This follows a 3 percent cut last year.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at email@example.com or 724-244-4042.
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