EPLC Education Notebook

Monday, February 27, 2006

    Pennsylvania Education Policy Activity

  • State support for higher education took center stage at last week's House Appropriations Committee hearings. The Committee met with representatives of the State System of Higher Education (SSHE) and state-related universities (Penn State, Lincoln, Temple and the University of Pittsburgh) on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss their FY 2006-07 budgetary needs. Budget testimony available online is accessible through EPLC's Education Policy Information Clearinghouse at www.eplc.org/clearinghouse_2006-2007budget.html.

    SSHE Chancellor Judy Hample asked the Committee to consider a $26.7 million (6%) increase for SSHE to cover increasing costs in health care, technology, construction, utilities and library materials. In his FY 2006-07 budget, Gov. Ed Rendell proposed a $20 million (4.5%) increase for the State System. Without a 6% increase next year, which would bring total state funding for SSHE to $472.054 million, Hample said the System will need to look at higher than planned tuition increases and requiring universities to further cut costs. SSHE currently receives $5.4 million less in state appropriations than it received in 2000-01. Since that time, the system's 14 universities have enrolled an additional 11,000 students.

    Rep. Fred McIlhattan asked Hample what SSHE is doing to increase enrollment at its western Pennsylvania institutions; demographics show the number of high school students in western Pennsylvania will begin to decline after 2008. McIlhattan suggested charging a lower tuition rate at those institutions, however, Hample said the western universities' presidents are concerned that lowering tuition at select schools could create the impression that they offer a lower quality of education. Rather, Hample said SSHE may consider increasing the percentage of out-of-state students admitted to State System universities from 10% to 15% because states contiguous to the Commonwealth are expected to experience high school student growth.

    Rep. Patrick Fleagle complimented the System's performance funding initiative and said he is working to develop legislation that would create a similar financial rewards system for all state-funded higher education institutions. Currently, SSHE distributes 7% of its state appropriation based on performance factors that include faculty productivity, student diversity, PRAXIS pass rates, and private support/fundraising. Hample hopes to increase the amount of funding distributed through performance funding next year. She said the program is successful because it is tailored to the specific goals of SSHE and that in developing a statewide system the Commonwealth would need to assess the state's goals collectively and by sector.

    State-related universities expressed serious concern with pending legislation that would annually limit state spending increases (TABOR). The four state-related universities are funded through "non-preferred" appropriations, which are approved only after the state's general fund budget is adopted. The universities fear that their position at the "bottom of the food chain" would make them the first to face cuts if increases in the general fund budget reached the TABOR spending limit. TABOR legislation adopted in Colorado put the Rocky Mountain state in a position of almost completely defunding its higher education system. The Commonwealth's state-related universities already have experienced cuts in their state appropriations relative to what the universities received earlier this decade.

    Penn State President Graham Spanier said the university receives less state appropriations now than it did in 2000. Gov. Rendell proposed a 3.3% ($10.373 million) increase for Penn State in FY 2006-07. The university had requested a 9.5% boost with the guarantee that if that level of funding was appropriated it would hold tuition flat at its branch campuses outside of State College. Spanier told the Committee, "the funding a state provides to its public institutions not only sends a definitive message about its priorities, it also provides a hint of what the state's future may hold." Of his concerns, the greatest lies in the proposed third year of flat-funding for agricultural research and agricultural extension services. Spanier asked if the continued flat-funding is a signal that the state is trying to dismantle the program which conducts research on bioterrorism, food safety, water quality and more. The university already has laid off 164 people involved with these programs and may need to eliminate another 54 positions if they do not receive an increase in state funding.

    The University of Pittsburgh also is seeking a restoration of state funding to the level it received in 2001. The Governor has proposed a total 3.7% ($5.825 million) increase for Pitt in FY 2006-07. Within that proposal, funds for rural education outreach were cut which, according to Chancellor Mark Nordenberg, will hurt workforce development programs in rural communities. Nordenberg noted the value Pitt returns to the state as an economic driver whose research projects support approximately 18,000 jobs in the Commonwealth.

    Temple University requested that the legislature approve a 6% appropriations increase to meet costs associated with burgeoning enrollments and previous budget cuts. The Governor has proposed a 4% ($6.472 million) increase for Temple. In the last six years, total enrollment at Temple has grown from 29,094 students in 2000 to 34,097 students in 2005, with the largest growth in undergraduate students (from 17,773 in 2000 to 23,627 in 2005). President David Adamany cited success with recruiting a diverse student body. The school consistently ranks as one of the most diverse universities in the nation and is ranked fifth nationally in the number of baccalaureate degrees awarded to African Americans. Adamany said Temple also experiences challenges in a pending wave of faculty retirements - half of the university's faculty is older than 56 - and in renovations for an aging campus.

    Finally, the Governor proposed a 4% increase to Lincoln University, which would bring total state funding for Lincoln to $13.451 million. The University had sought a $21.000 million state appropriation for FY 2006-07 to support general operations, a technology/distance learning initiative, and four programs of excellence that would target fields in which minorities are underrepresented (biotechnology, materials and environmental sciences; teacher education and urban pedagogy; mass communications; and business and information technology).

    Additional information about the proposed 2006-07 state budget is available at www.eplc.org/clearinghouse_2006-2007budget.html.

  • All legislation from the Pennsylvania General Assembly, including bills cited in this Notebook, can be found at www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/session.cfm.

    Research and Reports

  • "The Toolbox Revisited: Paths to Degree Completion From High School Through College", a new report from the U.S. Department of Education, identifies factors that increase student success in completing a bachelor's degree. According to the report, "the academic intensity of a high school curriculum is the strongest indicator of postsecondary degree completion, regardless of a student's major course of study." The Toolbox Revisited identifies four additional key factors at the college level that can improve the rate of students completing bachelor's degrees: 1) first-year credit generation - students should earn a minimum of 20 credits by the end of their first calendar year of enrollment; 2) revision of excessive no-penalty course withdrawals and no-credit course repeats; 3) strategic use of summer terms; and 4) no delay of entry into higher education after high school graduation. The report studied the high school class of 1992 as it moved from high school to college. Comparisons are made to a previous report which followed the high school class of 1982 and came to similar conclusions. Read more at www.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/toolboxrevisit/toolbox.pdf.

  • Other

  • Register Now...The 2006 Pennsylvania Education Policy and Leadership Conference will be held Sunday, March 12 to Tuesday, March 14 in Harrisburg. This Fourth Annual conference will feature two Pre-Conference Workshops on March 12 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. The Workshops are on "Building Effective Community-Based Education Foundations" and "Interventions that Work to Improve Student Achievement". The Conference begins on Sunday at 4:00 p.m. with a session that looks at the 2006-07 budget proposal made by Governor Rendell. Speakers include Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak. For additional information, including registration materials and a preliminary agenda, see www.eplc.org/conference.html.

  • Education Issues Workshops for Legislative Candidates and campaign staff will be hosted by EPLC in Monroeville, Valley Forge and Harrisburg during March. These Workshops are open to incumbent and non-incumbent candidates and staff. Registration materials will be available soon.

  • This Week...The House Appropriations Committee continues its FY 2006-07 budget hearings with hearings for the PA School Employees' Retirement System and the University of Pennsylvania on Monday and the PA Department of Education on Wednesday. EPLC president Ron Cowell and Janis Risch, Executive Director of Good Schools Pennsylvania, discuss education issues with the House Democratic Policy Committee on Monday. The Senate Appropriations Committee begins its FY 2006-07 budget hearings with hearings for state-related universities on Tuesday, the State System of Higher Education on Wednesday, and the PA School Employees' Retirement System on Thursday. The National Charter Schools Conference takes place February 28-March 3 in Sacramento. The Pennsylvania Association of Vocational Administrators hosts its annual symposium March 2-3 in Hershey. EPLC's Pennsylvania Education Policy Fellowship Program meets Friday in Harrisburg. For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

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