[Professor Amy Walters from Slippery Rock U shared this letter with me this morning, with an invitation to distribute it far and wide. The letter is an Open Letter from the PA chapter of the AAUP (American Association of University Professors). Feel free to distribute it farther and wider! –Seth]
To Pennsylvania Students:
Last week, your Governor, Tom Corbett, proposed his first budget. Despite the fact that Governor Corbett pledged to place a high priority on jobs and the economy, his budget assures that Pennsylvania will be a competitive disadvantage economically. He warned that his budget would be painful, and it was. If passed, this budget will likely ensure that yours will be the first generation to have a lower standard of living than that of your parents. You will confront massive challenges in your lifetime. There will be increased competition from within the US and abroad, where men and women are better educated than ever before. The best educated will develop the most significant advances in technology. Opportunities will still exist; and education will remain critical to your surviving and thriving. Unfortunately, you will have less help from the state government than any generation since World War II.
As a society, we face tough choices. We are facing a deep recession; many people are hurting. Although there is wealth in our society, this budget does not ask the appropriate sacrifice from those who are more fortunate, nor from those in the financial sector who have brought this calamity upon us. Rather, this budget asks you and your families to sacrifice.
As the representatives of tens of thousands of college and university faculty throughout the Commonwealth, we wanted to write our objections to this proposal and to encourage the Governor and legislature to reconsider the drastic and devastating cuts proposed last week. The proposed budget will result in higher costs and fewer loans for students; it will result in fewer faculty and more crowded classrooms; as a consequence, it will result in a less educated and less competitive Pennsylvania.
Just to summarize, the budget proposed last week cut state funding to the state owned institutions 54%, down to 1983 levels. It is hard to see how PSSHE (Millersville, Slippery Rock, etc) will cope with those cuts without cutting faculty and staff (secretaries, maintenance workers, etc.), without cancelling classes and important programs. Instead of your finishing your education in four years, it will likely take you five or six.
The state-related institutions (Pitt, Penn State, Temple and Lincoln) took similar cuts in the proposed budgets. Penn State’s President, Graham Spanier, is predicting tuition increases of 10-20%, at what is already the most expensive public institution in the country. In addition to firing faculty, he predicts closing some branch campuses.
PHEAA, which funds loans for both public and private college students, was cut by almost 3% and, for private schools, the cuts may reach 7 %. Thus student aid will go down as tuition goes up. Likewise, community colleges will cut classes and faculty, making it harder for citizens to start or restart their education.
Pennsylvania faces a large budget deficit of approximately $4 billion; there are no easy fixes. However, you all know that no economy thrives for long without a middle class. Cutting higher education means cutting the opportunity for many to move into or remain in the middle class. So, cutting money spent on education is akin to eating your seed corn.
Students did not cause this economic crisis; neither did their parents. Faculty did not. University staff did not. The middle class did not; but now we are being asked to pay for it.
As leaders of the Commonwealth, the governor and legislature have an opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of millions of Pennsylvanians. The budget proposed last week was only a first step, and you should take the opportunity not only to get justification of funding from the universities cut, but to think about your priorities and those of the state. In the end, we think you will realize the wise thing to do is to restore the funding for higher education. We think that, eventually, they will recognize the need to plant the seeds of education, so the Commonwealth will reap the benefits.
This is not a time for silence. As educators and as citizens we need to step up and be heard on this matter. Clicking on this http://www.legis.state.pa.us/ will take you to the Pennsylvania legislature’s website, which contains contact information for the state House of Representatives and Senate. We encourage you to use this resource to contact your local representative and or state senator to voice your opinion on this proposal. Let them know that that the budget proposal is a bad deal for all Pennsylvanians.
Executive Board of the PA-AAUP.