Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Guidance through a clear, direct message

It’s not hard to guess what’s been in the forefront of my mind of late. I’ve spent the bulk of recent weeks in various discussions, meetings and hearings regarding the state budget proposal. Governor Tom Corbett’s record level of proposed cuts to higher education and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), has left us feeling a bit unsettled, to say the least.

And we’re left in limbo until we see a response to the proposed budget from the state Senate and General Assembly and, eventually, a final budget. For now, everything remains on the table related to any actions or decisions needed to balance our university’s budget for 2011-12.

However, I’m optimistic. Our efforts in recent weeks have been well-received and we have been very successful in getting our message to the state legislators who, in turn, have responded positively. I feel the success is attributed to the fact the PASSHE message is clear and direct: We provide a high-equality education at an affordable price to a large percentage of Pennsylvania students who become contributing citizens and young leaders of this Commonwealth.

Nearly 90 percent of our students are state residents and more than 80 percent of our graduates either pursue additional professional training and education or take jobs in Pennsylvania. It doesn’t stop there. Nearly two-thirds of our 62,000 alumni reside in Pennsylvania. So we not only educate, we provide an economic stimulus.

Corbett’s proposed $232.6 million represents more than a 50 percent cut to the general fund appropriations to PASSHE. If approved, the budget will reduce the state allocations to PASSHE to about the same levels of when the State System was formed in 1983. This is the greatest proposed cut to higher education of any state in our country at any time in history. Fortunately, our legislators see the value of a PASSHE education. We’re confident we will not see a cut of this magnitude, but the size of the budget cut we will see remains unknown.

The good news is: we do expect a state budget to be passed by the end of June – something that hasn’t happened in recent years. That means the PASSHE Board of Governors will be prepared to set tuition rates sooner than in previous years and we’ll be able to provide more specific information to our students, parents, alumni, faculty and staff.

In the meantime, students continue to remain our number one priority. That fact won’t change. And, in the midst of this unprecedented budget crisis, we will not sacrifice the quality of our students’ education. In spite of the challenges, BU will thrive and continue to do what it does so well – educate the students of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.