HARRISBURG -- Penn State President Graham Spanier testified to the state Senate Appropriations committee yesterday alongside leaders of Pennsylvania's other state-related universities in a collective effort to increase the amount of state funding each will get for the 2006-2007 academic year.
The state House Appropriations Committee also questioned Spanier last Wednesday.
State senators questioned the administrators for about two hours about issues facing their schools and how their operating budgets matched up with Gov. Ed Rendell's proposed appropriations for their respective schools. Rendell has proposed an appropriation of $322.4 million for Penn State for the 2006-2007 school year.
State Sen. Michael O'Pake, D-Berks, asked the administrators how much of a tuition increase students could see at their schools given the proposed appropriation.
"At that level, we would have to raise tuition as modestly as possible," said Spanier, adding it might be "one of the lowest increases we have had in recent history."
The administrators were also asked to define what percentage of their operating budgets comes from state appropriations. Penn State was the lowest of the four at 9.7 percent; state appropriations make up less than 12 percent of the University of Pittsburgh's budget, 20 percent of Temple University's budget and 25 percent of Lincoln University's budget.
"It's declined significantly over the years," Spanier said.
Pennsylvania ranks 45th out of all states in per capita support for higher education, Temple President David Adamany said in his opening remarks. Spanier followed up Adamany's statement by saying the amount of state appropriations is indicative of the state's priorities and its potential for the future.
"For Pennsylvania, its investment in higher education has failed to keep pace at exactly the wrong time -- a time when the key to economic prosperity is a well-educated workforce," Spanier said.
State Sen. James Rhoades, R-Schuylkill, said state appropriations should be a compromise between the state and the universities.
"As much as you have to put a budget together, we do, too," he told the administrators. "If we're that bad, how come you're still getting this many people, and they're willing to pay the bills?" he said, referring to an increase in applications at Temple.
State Sen. Michael Stack, D-Philadelphia, asked about the rising amount of debt that students have at graduation.
"Are any of you doing anything with regards to preparing these kids for the dreaded real world?" he asked.
Spanier told the legislators that Penn State students are educated about financial aid and assisted by programs of the Division of Student Affairs in becoming "highly marketable for jobs."
Stack also asked if the universities were doing anything to keep their students residing in Pennsylvania after they graduated.
Spanier said Penn State has been working with businesses and industries to create more opportunities in the state.
"More would stay in state if there were jobs waiting for them," Spanier said.
Adamany said that with many internship opportunities for students in Philadelphia, students were finding employment in the area after graduation.
"It's the advantage of being in a big city," he said.
The constitutional deadline for the budget to be approved by the state Legislature and governor is June 30.