After more than a four-month delay, Penn State and Pennsylvania’s other state-related universities have finally seen the General Assembly approve their annual funding.
Gov. Josh Shapiro signed the appropriations bill Thursday, committing hundreds of millions in long-awaited funds to the four state-relateds. Penn State is set to receive $344.8 million in total, including $242.1 million in general support.
Here’s what you should know about the bill and its impact:
1. It’s the fourth straight year PSU did not see a funding increase in its general support appropriation.
For those unfamiliar with the process, Penn State essentially receives four different appropriations — for Penn State Health and the College of Medicine, the Pennsylvania College of Technology, the Agricultural Research and Cooperative Extension, and general support. The general support appropriation is typically the largest and helps to discount tuition for in-state students.
The Pennsylvania College of Technology, an affiliate of Penn State, saw a 12% increase in its appropriation to $29.9 million. But the other appropriations remained flat, including the always-important general support. The state House initially voted on a bill with a 7.1% increase, but the state Senate eliminated the increase earlier this week and passed the bill without it. (Only Penn College and Lincoln University saw increases.)
The General Assembly last approved an increase in general support for Penn State in 2019-2020 — and, even then, it was just for 2%. Although the university declined to comment to the CDT when asked about the long-term consequences of flatlined general support, it has previously pointed out that Pennsylvania remains among the worst-ranked states in the country when it comes to per-capita support of higher education. Penn State is requesting a 52% increase next year to $368.1 million in general support, which would put the land-grant university more in line with per-capita spending at other Pennsylvania state-relateds. But, in reality, the university is not expected to get funding anywhere near that requested amount.
2. House-proposed tuition freeze did not make final bill.
When the state House passed its proposed appropriations bill last month, the bill contained an amendment that would have required state-related universities to freeze tuition for the 2024-2025 academic year. At the time, Penn State told the CDT it could not support such a move since a freeze would have amounted to a $54 million cut, as the board of trustees already approved a “modest” tuition increase for most students next year.
But the state Senate passed an appropriations bill earlier this week without the required tuition freeze. (And the House then approved the changes.) That means graduate students and University Park students shouldn’t expect a financial break next year. A typical in-state UPark undergrad will still see their annual tuition increase 2%, or $394, to $20,066. (A typical out-of-state UPark undergrad will see an increase of more than $1,500, while in-state undergrads at commonwealth campuses will not see increases.)
Removing the tuition freeze and the increase in general support didn’t sit well with many, although a number of lawmakers said they felt compelled to pass the bill so universities would receive their overdue funding.
3. Most Penn State employees will soon see raises reflected in their paychecks.
As a result of the delayed state funding, Penn State also delayed its merit-based general salary increases for employees — in part so it could financially support its in-state tuition discount. But, on Thursday, the university provided an update: New salaries will be reflected in January 2024 paychecks, and the raises are retroactive to July 1.
Penn State’s board of trustees previously approved 3% pools for unit executives to award increases and, according to the university, individual percentages are determined during the employee review process — so increases could be above or below 3%.
“We’re grateful that the General Assembly and governor have approved the funding that will allow us to move forward with processing GSI for our faculty and staff,” Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi said in a written statement. “Our faculty and staff show their dedication to the mission of Penn State every day, and we’re thankful for their continued patience as we now implement the salary increases they have earned.”
4. Local legislators all voted in favor of funding for Penn State, state-relateds.
Centre County’s three representatives and two senators remained consistent in their voting, no matter what letter was attached to their names. The county’s two state senators — Cris Dush, R-Brookville, and Wayne Langerholc Jr., R-Johnstown — both voted in favor of funding the state-relateds, joining the vote’s 45-5 majority. The county’s three state reps — Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, Scott Conklin, D-Rush Township, and Paul Takac, D-College Township — then all voted yes in concurrence, joining the 149-54 House majority.
On Oct. 31, Centre County’s three state representatives also voted yes on a proposal that included a tuition freeze and 7.1% funding increase. Although that passed the House 145-57, that particular legislation was not included in the state Senate’s package and ultimately did not become law.
5. Penn State, state-relateds required to increase financial transparency.
Technically, these new transparency requirements were not part of the bill that involved the appropriations — they were in a separate bill. But many lawmakers saw this as a necessary step in funding Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln. Gov. Josh Shapiro signed both bills Thursday.
As part of these new requirements, Penn State and the other state-relateds will have to list the salaries of all officers and directors, as well as up to the 200 highest-paid employees, plus faculty salary ranges. According to The Associated Press, they will have to report detailed financial information for each academic and administrative support unit and any enterprise that is funded by tuition or taxpayer money, plus detailed information about classification of employees and course credits.
And they will also be required to publish information about each contract exceeding $5,000 online and submit it to the governor’s office and Legislature, among other new requirements involving finances, employment and operations.
The bipartisan bill, which was also supported by the schools, passed the state House 201-1 and the state Senate 50-0. Only state Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware, opposed it.
The Associated Press contributed to this report