With $83 million reduction looming, Pa.-owned universities look for options

    Gov. Tom Corbett has proposed cutting $82 million from state-owned universities, including Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Cheyney and Millersville, as part of his more than $27 billion budget plan.

    Last year’s reduction was about $90 million to the State System of Higher Education.

    Several state senators are congratulating state-owned colleges for curbing costs in the aftermath of that budgetary move.

    But Sen. Mary Jo White, R-Venango, said she’ll be watching faculty and coaches to see if they agree to take salary freezes. Everyone, she said, needs to pull his or her own weight.

    “I think it is time for the unions, across the board, to recognize that we cannot continue business as usual with automatic increases every year,” White said Wednesday. “People have been frozen for a long period of time on salaries here in this Capitol and probably throughout your system.”

    Even when the 14 schools have received more state funding, tuition has gone up, noted Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R- Montgomery..

    But the chancellor of the state system says when last year’s state budget cuts amounted to $800 dollars per student, tuition only went up by about $400.

    Chancellor John Cavanaugh says the hard fiscal realities already have the schools considering a number of cost-cutting measures — including the distant possibility of closing a school.

    But state legislation doesn’t provide a clear road map, he said.

    “We would have an obligation to allow students who are already at that institution to complete the degrees, so quite unlike in the corporate world, for example, you just go out, you turn off the lights, you take the loss on your books,” Cavanaugh said. “It would take years to do that.”

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