By SUSAN JONES
Pitt and its supporters are continuing to plead their case to the state legislature that the funding the University has received from the commonwealth for more than 50 years should continue.
On June 20, the state Senate passed funding for the state-related schools — Pitt, Penn State, Temple and Lincoln — that included $151.5 million for Pitt. This is the same appropriation Pitt has received since 2019. Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal had requested a five percent increase for the state-related universities.
The funding bill is now with the House, where it will need a two-thirds majority to pass, or 134 “yes” votes. Last year, Pitt’s funding passed the House 150 to 51.
At the June 24 Board of Trustees meeting, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said the process has “now entered crunch time, and the matter is now in the hands of our elected officials.”
He said the next week will be a very busy, and hopefully productive, time in Harrisburg, and he is hopeful that the budget process will conclude in the next few weeks before lawmakers leave on summer recess.
“I do not know the final outcome of those deliberations,” Gallagher said. “What I do know is that our community has made its case, and I believe they made it extraordinarily well. I don’t believe there’s a lawmaker in Harrisburg — frankly, I don’t think there’s a resident in the commonwealth — that can claim that they did not hear about the vital role that state funding plays in supporting Pennsylvania students and their families and how it supports our critical public mission to advance the state welfare through education and knowledge.”
Pitt can’t set its budget for fiscal year 2022-23, which starts July 1, until the state appropriation is determined. Meetings between the administration and the University Planning and Budgeting Committee are planned in mid-July, which is the earliest a decision could be made about the University budget.
A group of Republican lawmakers, mostly in the House, has been pushing the idea that maybe the state shouldn’t fund Pitt because of fetal tissue research done here and other hot-button right wing issues, such as free speech on campus, classes on diversity and race, and vaccine mandates.
The Post-Gazette reported that some GOP lawmakers also are upset with the role former Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg played on the state reapportionment committee last year. Nordenberg chaired the commission that redrew state Senate and House districts to reflect changing populations. Some Republicans have said the new maps favor Democrats.
Pitt has stressed repeatedly that all the money it gets from the state goes toward reducing tuition for its 17,000 in-state students. This results in an average discount of $15,000 per academic year. In fiscal year 2020-21, Pitt provided $284 million in tuition discounts for Pennsylvania students. The state’s appropriation accounted for around 60 percent of that discount; Pitt made up the difference.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at email@example.com or 724-244-4042.
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