Gov. Tom Corbett released 2012-2013 budget proposal which was posted on the Bloomsburg University’s website around 8:30 a.m. on Wed., Feb. 7. The proposal initiates another 20 percent reduction of funding to all Pennsylvania’s state-owned universities.
This news release was also followed by a letter from the governor to the members of Pennsylvania. In this letter, Corbett explains the reasons for this outcome and how it is beneficial to the state. He says that the priorities that the government desire to uphold are public safety, individual responsibility and education. He believes that the budget cuts are the best solution to build up the economy and also create more jobs.
In addition, he claims that it will also help manage government spending. His ultimate goal for developing this proposal is to strengthen the government’s finances which would establish economic opportunities for the citizens. He desires for the people of Pennsylvania to become economically responsible and less dependent upon federal government. However, there are many people, including faculty and students, who do not agree with the governor’s ideas.
Last year, the funding for these 14 universities was reduced by approximately 18 percent. As a result, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) was forced to raise the tuition to 7.5 percent. As the budget cuts continue, PASSHE’s most difficult task at hand is working to maintain their goal to provide an affordable quality education.
The Association of Pennsylvania’s State College and University Facilities (APSCUF) is an organization made up of more than 6,000 faculty and coaches who share the same goal as PASSHE: to provide quality education for students in Pennsylvania. Some of the members of APSCUF are very saddened by the outcome of less funding to the university. Stephen Kokoska, the president of the Bloomsburg chapter of APSCUF, believes that this budget cut will not only increase tuition for students but the amount of faculty and deferred maintenance will decline as well. “We have minimal control over the decision of cutting funds,” said Kokoska.
Currently, they are scheduling meetings to discuss alternatives to help the students. Eric Hawrelak, a Chemistry/Bio Chemistry professor and Chairman of APSCUF’s mobilization committee, agrees that faculty doesn’t have a lot of say in the decision of reducing school funding but offers another solution: the students. He believes, along with Kokoska, that the students have more power than they may think.
Last year, Hawrelak recalls the students and their parents bombarding legislators with postcards and letters requesting to stop these budget cuts. As a response to the overloading amount of mail received, the legislators lowered the reduction amount. On the other hand, he still fears that if the budget cuts continue, universities will begin to see drastic changes in the cost of fees. “Soon it will cost more to go to the Rec,” said Hawrelak.
“This is ridiculous!” said Jade Heisman, a sophomore who already is struggling to pay her way through school. Like so many others, she fears that these budget cuts will discourage more students from attending college or think of it as a possible option.
Unlike Corbett, Wayne Whitaker, adviser and assistant director of Diversity and Retention, does not see how budget cuts each year will help the communities in Pennsylvania or the students. “We just went through a cut [in the university’s budget],” Whitaker said. He also questions the ability to maintain a quality education if budget cuts continue. “Less funding means less programming, facilities, and everything that has to do with being a student.” Overall, he is very disappointed in how the governor has come to this decision and strives to continue to provide scholarships to students as well as incoming freshmen.
Robert Colbert, a sophomore majoring in Secondary Education, not only opposes the idea of reducing funding to the university but also believes this will minimize opportunities for those who are younger than him. “A lot of inner-city kids will be disadvantaged.” Colbert explains that the budget cuts not only have an effect on current students, but those people that would benefit from gaining a degree in college instead of working with a low salary.
To his fellow students, he encourages them to continue to go to class, work hard to earn a good GPA to show legislators and the governors that we don’t take “affordable quality education” for granted. The solution to Corbett’s budget cuts is students. Kokoska said, “Students will make the difference; the students and their parents.”