State universities secure funding, with a catch



(The Center Square) — After months of delay, state-related universities will get the funding they expect, but with a catch: more financial transparency.

The state-relateds — Penn State University, Temple University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Lincoln University — will receive $603.5 million. Though Gov. Josh Shapiro had proposed $640 million for the schools – a 7% increase from last year – in the end, the only increase legislators authorized were $3.2 million each to the Pennsylvania College of Technology (part of Penn State) and Lincoln University.

Act 11A, which authorized the funds, is joined by Act 29, which will require the schools to publicly share financial information akin to what non-profit groups publish in their Form 990s with the federal government.

That encompasses salary information for officers and directors, the highest 25 salaries paid out (or the highest 175 salaries if the university employs 2,500 or more people), audited financial statements, and certain project or program budgets.

Past efforts by Republicans to press the schools for more financial transparency have failed. With the latest compromise, though, the schools still provide less information than public institutions in other states, as well as those within the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

In pushing for greater transparency, lawmakers have argued that they want to be a partner and not just an ATM. Annual tuition hikes, too, have irked them. During appropriations hearings in 2023, only Lincoln University was willing to commit to a tuition freeze — while PASSHE schools have frozen tuition for five years.

In supporting the funding increases, Republicans tied their support to results.

“The General Assembly has long said that we should pay for performance when it comes to our institutions of higher education,” Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Williamsport, said in a press release. “Time and time again, Penn College has risen to the occasion. PCT is an institution that has uplifted its community and trained tomorrow’s workforce for more than a century and they are setting the standard for technical education and innovation around the world. I am very pleased we have taken this step in rewarding their outstanding performance.”

Democrats spoke of the funding as a pragmatic-but-delayed action.

“I am delighted that this legislature will finally be driving out much-needed funding to our state-related universities, including the institution of higher learning in my backyard, the University of Pittsburgh,” Sen. Jay Costa, D-Pittsburgh, said in a press release. “While I wish that we were able to provide an increase as proposed by the governor, I recognize that we are nearly five months past our budget deadline. It’s imperative that we move this process to the governor’s desk.”



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