Pennsylvania State Schools Need $69M to Break Even in 2014-15

Pennsylvania’s 14 state universities will need an additional $69 million in  the coming fiscal year to simply break even, according to data presented to the State System of Higher Education Board of Governors in mid-October.

The system has seen enrollment declines over the past three years and is projecting another small decline in Fiscal Year 2014-15.  State taxpayer support of the system has been flat lined at $412 million during the last two budget years by the General Assembly.

Going forward, the schools’ enrollment and funding pictures are not any brighter.

A state funding increase of nearly 17 percent to cover current deficits is out of the question both politically and financially, so the questions will become how much taxpayers will fund, how much current tuition ($7,600) and fees will be increased, and what type of cuts the schools will make in their current operations.

Edinboro University in northwestern Pennsylvania has already said it is cutting 32 faculty jobs and will be eliminating programs that do not generate significant interest.

The single largest cost driver going forward is pension funding, expected to rise between 27 and 32 percent next year. Pension costs are expected to continue to rise at similar rates in the future if the state does nothing to reform the taxpayer-funded public employee pension program.

A projected 774 fewer students overall will attend the state schools next year, resulting in a $4.5 million tuition loss. Health care costs are expected to rise 5.5 percent, or $9.8 million.

Projected  state university budgets and deficits are listed below.

University FY2014-15 Budget FY14-15 Surplus/Deficit
Bloomsburg $137.7 million -$5.97 million
California $111.2 million -$3.55 million
Cheyney $27.7 million -$2.49 million
Clarion $86.9 million -$4.26 million
East Stroudsburg $102.9 million -$3.59 million
Edinboro $99.9 million -$6.24 million
Indiana $219.2 million -$7.37 million
Kutztown $133 million -$3.78 million
Lock Haven $72.4 million -$3.64 million
Mansfield $45.9 million -$2.81 million
Millersville $117.4 million -$6.61 million
Shippensburg $103.5 million -$3.84 million
Slippery Rock $119.3 million -$7.89 million
West Chester $215 millio -$6.29 million

In her “State of the Union” address in September, Slippery Rock President Cheryl Norton presented  a tough forecast, projecting that school will have a cumulative deficit of $28.9 million by Fiscal Year 2015-16.

Extrapolating that figure as a percentage of the current projected shortfall, the entire system could have a cumulative debt of $260.1 million by FY2015-16.

The state university system was put together in 1982, combining what had formerly been state teacher colleges. The goal was to provide a college education for as many Pennsylvanians as possible, at the lowest possible cost.