It isn’t such a bad idea, especially when it comes to understanding the plight of higher education funding.
The concept of going “Back to the Future” went nationwide in 1985 with the Michael J. Fox film that’s since become a cult favorite. In the science-fiction adventure, Dr. Emmett “Doc” Mack Brown built a time machine that enabled Marty McFly to travel back in time 30 years to 1955 and then back to 1985 after some misadventures. Nearing the end of the 1980s — specifically, the 1988-89 academic year — the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) received about $322.7 million in state funding, 57% of the 14 schools’ operating budgets. Today, nearly three decades later, PASSHE is facing a proposed state allocation at about the same level —$330.2 million — just $7.5 million more than during the “Back to the Future” era. It would be a 20 percent cut in state funding, according to Gov. Tom Corbett’s 2012-13 budget proposal.
Bloomsburg University has come a long way since 1985, when it was still growing from a state college with 6,400 students into today’s comprehensive university with 10,000 students studying in four colleges offering 56 programs leading to bachelor’s degrees, 44 minors and 21 graduate programs, including a doctorate in audiology. The system has grown, too, adding 23,000 students in that time. The dynamics of our education climate are simply not the same as they were in 1988-89. We recognize the financial challenges facing the state and know that higher education is key to its financial recovery. BU, along with other PASSHE institutions, is a major economic incubator graduating thousands of highly educated professionals and leaders into the work force each year. More than 80 percent of them stay in Pennsylvania to pursue their careers.
Advocating on behalf of higher education should be a yearlong initiative, but there’s no greater time than now to make our voices heard. Together we’re building not just a great future but a great state filled with young leaders who have expanded their knowledge and skills, developed diverse thoughts and ideals, and increased their understanding of our multicultural society and global community.
We must continue to create the dynamic future Doc Brown envisioned visiting when he created the “flux capacitor.”