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The Sentinel

An Eye on the Penn State Administration


Rally Demands More Funds, No Accountability

Penn Staters from all campuses traveled to Harrisburg yesterday for the annual Rally in the Rotunda. Organized by the Council of Commonwealth Student Governments (CCSG) at Penn State, the rally is designed to increase awareness of the very real burdens that impacting our students across Pennsylvania.

Rally Held To Request Funding (TDC) — Standing outside the office of State Rep. Ken Smith, D-Lackawanna, John Richter was ready to make his case for higher state appropriations for the university yesterday.

As one of 310 students at yesterday’s seventh annual Rally in the Rotunda, University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) governmental affairs chairman John Richter met with Smith at the Capitol Building in Harrisburg as other students met with more legislators.

“We will not stop until we get higher appropriations,” said Bobby Casiano, president of the Council of Commonwealth Student Governments, which sponsored the event with UPUA. “We are empowered students.”

For the second year now, I attended the rally with UPUA President Gavin Keirans and others from University Park. What I saw, like last year, was disappointing, in that our pleas for larger taxpayer appropriations to Penn State fall flat due to the administration’s lack of a transparent operating budget.

In other words, because Pennsylvania legislators have no hard and fast means by which to discern whether the taxpayer appropriations budgeted to the University are being well spent or not, there is practically no incentive to increase funding.

Even as tuition has skyrocketed over the past ten years from costing under $6,000 per year to attend Penn State to costing over $13,000 per year today, the legislators are reluctant to award our administration more funding when they can’t be sure that the money will actually go, for instance, toward funding academic facilities or departments.

Also, I think it’s important to point out that it is true that state appropriations have decreased as a percentage of the overall budget, from being in the mid to high teens a few years ago to resting at just above 10 percent of our overall operating budget.

That being said, though, what administrators never point out to otherwise well meaning student advocates like those who attend the Rally in the Rotunda, the state appropriation itself is not decreasing — it’s only decreasing as a percentage of total spending. Total spending, of course, has also leapt over the years, from roughly $2.3 billion a few years ago to more than $3.5 billion today.

So, it’s not the legislators’ fault that our state appropriations have appeared to decrease percentage-wise — they’ve continued to award Penn State more taxpayer funds every year, even if it doesn’t end up providing as much as President Spanier would like to see happen.

The Rally in the Rotunda is a fine and admirable idea, but in practice it flounders badly due largely to the fact that the legislators need incentive to offer substantative increases in funding to Penn State, and so long as the administration refuses to make their budget fully transparent, our tuition will continue to rise even if we students continue to moan.

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[…] wrote earlier this week about the recent Rally in the Rotunda that happens every spring in Harrisburg. Unfortunately, the rally is virtually meaningless, due to […]

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