Higher Education Must Finds Ways To Do More With Less

Pennsylvania’s public owned universities have increased tuition to splurge on skyrocketing administrative costs, recreation centers, and a golf simulator

HARRISBURG — Republican Party of Pennsylvania Chairman Rob Gleason released the following statement in support of Governor Tom Corbett’s budget proposal.

“After inheriting a $4 billion dollar budget gap, Governor Corbett has fought to reign in wasteful spending across the board to get our Commonwealth off of its current unsustainable fiscal course and back on the path to prosperity. Public universities are an important place to invest funds, but it’s clear that based on how they have spent taxpayer dollars in the past, the system has plenty of room for reform,” Chairman Rob Gleason said.

“If you think that government subsidies have lowered tuition for our students, think again. Over the past decade, taxpayers have spent over $4.8 billion dollars on higher education funding, while these universities have actually increased tuition by 45% as Pennsylvania students are struggling with higher than average debt which, in 2009, totaled to more than $27,000 per graduate.

“College is not only getting more expensive, colleges are also keeping students in school longer than the traditional four year program. If you think these taxpayer dollars have been allocated based on performance, think again. At the 14 state owned universities, 69% of students do not graduate in four years. Two-thirds of these universities’ revenue goes towards services outside of the classroom, like a golf simulator, and now is just not the time for amenities. Our children deserve better, and we need to begin the conversation to revamp our current system into one that benefits students, parents and institutions, in that order.

“In stark contrast to the past eight years, Governor Corbett’s 2011-2012 budget addresses the reforms necessary in higher education funding, understanding that money can’t be thrown at a problem to fix it. Our higher educational institutions need to be partners in reform in making cost cutting decisions that give our children the opportunity to receive first-class education here Pennsylvania that prepares them to enter the workforce without breaking their banks. Governor Corbett’s budget begins this meaningful conversation and the Republican Party of Pennsylvania fully supports it,” Gleason said.

The following excerpts are from the Commonwealth Foundation’s policy point, “Higher Education Spending and Performance.”

Ballooning Tuition

Tuition at public universities has ballooned, despite taxpayer support. Taxpayers provided nearly $3.5 billion to Penn State over the last decade while tuition doubled to $15,250.The University of Pittsburgh received about $1.7 billion in direct taxpayer subsidies over the last ten years, while more than doubling tuition to $14,936.

Low Four-Year Graduation Rates

Taxpayers subsidize universities regardless of their performance. The percentage of students enrolling who don’t graduate in four years ranges from 42% to 89% at Pennsylvania’s public universities. At Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Schools, 69% of students don’t graduate in 4 years.”

Skyrocketing Administrative Costs

Administrative costs at universities throughout the commonwealth have skyrocketed. Penn State increased administrative staff per student by 70.8% between 1993 and 2007. The University of Pittsburgh increased administrative staff by 54.7%, according to a Goldwater Institute study. About two-thirds of SSHE revenue (tuition and taxes) goes towards services and auxiliary functions outside the classroom.

IUP’s Golf Simulator, Courtesy of Pennsylvania Taxpayers

IUP invested in a new recreation center including a golf simulator with 52 different golf courses. And former President Tony Atwater set a SSHE spending record on food, travel, and residential costs, totaling more than $400,000 in 5 years.