When Governor Corbett enacted the new budget, he promised that it would build up the economy, create more jobs, establish economic opportunities, and make citizens less dependent on the federal government. Still, many were concerned with how this big change may affect the state schools of Pennsylvania.
Scott Lowe, Chairperson of the philosophy department, is very concerned about the budget’s long term effects. Although his department hasn’t been under any direct pressure, he knows the budget is going to make his job more difficult. For the past four to five years, the department has been trying to hire a staff member specializing in applied ethics. A position that he thinks is becoming increasingly necessary. He says that there is a huge demand for this position from students in other departments as well.
Instead of a full time tenured applied ethicist, the department has been forced to hire periodic temporary professors. The problem with temporary staff is that they are not necessarily as invested in the university as far as developing courses and becoming community resources. Lowe says that there is a balance that has been shifted. There are now more temporary employees being hired than permanent employees being promised a possible career. Permanent employees will be more beneficial for student learning in the long run.
This year, classes were absolutely full in the philosophy department. Classes that had twelve or fifteen students enrolled in the past, now have over twenty students. Lowe feels pressure to cancel upper level classes that serve majors, and keep general education courses. There is tension between goals; intro level courses have large enrollments, whereas advanced courses have much lower enrollment. He is forced to look at the big picture, and a lot more students can fit in a lecture hall than a small intimate class.
When it comes to the budget, Lowe thinks, “It’s moronic, it’s incredibly short-sighted.” He believes that it is failing to see the idea that certain public goods need to be paid for, and education will be cut to the point where they can no longer educate.
Lowe says that a huge amount of the students educated in Pennsylvania stay and become the workforce in Pennsylvania, so the idea of slashing education budgets is “counterproductive.” He says that the community needs to be educated, and you need a higher level of education if you want a highly educated populous.
Lowe has been in public schools his entire life. He says that originally the central difference between state schools and private schools was that state schools offered a great education, but at a significantly lower price. The higher costs are making higher education a bigger burden.
Richard Anderson, Chairperson of the history department, is equally concerned for similar reasons. He says that there are two very big issues. First, it is making it increasingly difficult to hire new staff. Second, state universities need to make up the lost money with larger classes. Which he believes is ultimately taking away from education.
Anderson says that with larger classes students get left out, they are more intimidated to speak up, and there is less opportunity to expand. This forces professors to change their teaching methods because it is harder to give individualized instruction in these settings.
Anderson doesn’t think that Governor Corbett necessarily understands the ramifications because he is a product of private schools. He says that there is a new statistic that proves when costs go up for tuition, there is a definite reduction in the percent of applicants.
He believes that higher education is a necessity. Not only does it mold students’ perspectives and help them acquire skills, but it also allows them to function in society and the work place. Ultimately, it creates well rounded individuals in a practical sense.
According to Gary Robson, Chairperson of the accounting department, it all comes down to planning. The budget has had very little impact on his department. They have made many decisions about the allocations of resources.
He explains that with a budget you need strategic plans. Without specific planning it is impossible for the administration to hand out resources like they used to.
Robson doesn’t see that resources have been cut. He just thinks that resources were being increased in the past. He thinks maybe the government was getting too zealous in good times, so now people are noticing the effects of bad times.
Robson hopes that students are not going to college only because of the support they receive from the government. He thinks that funding is fairly available to those who succeeded in high school.
He says that if the government is not giving students so much support, then maybe they will even take school more seriously, and work even harder.
“I think our administration has to tighten the belt, and they’re going about it the right way,” says Robson.