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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Piccola Offers Alternative Plan for PA Higher Ed

State Sen. Jeff Piccola has a new proposal to offer additional grants directly to Pennsylvania students for higher education, and tie this funding to both schools' holding tuition costs down and to student maintained adequate academic performance. Here is the news release from Piccola's office and a story on the Patriot News website.

This proposal mirrors some of the reforms outlined in our Policy Brief on Pennsylvania higher education.  Our five reforms were:

  1. Immediately halting all state higher education subsidies and making any increase contingent upon freezes in tuition costs and greater spending transparency for taxpayers.
  2. Replacing direct state subsidies to universities with scholarship grants to students.
  3. Holding students, colleges, and universities accountable for the taxpayer support they receive.
  4. Re-focusing all state institutions on teaching, rather than research.
  5. Considering a re-organization of state higher education, including the possibility of severing the taxpayers’ financial support to state, state-related, and state-aided universities. 
You can find our news release on the Piccola proposal here, and you should list to a recent program of The BOX on higher education reform.


Anonymous said...

For every dollar the University of Pittsburgh receives in state appropriations it produces $3.30 in federal research funds making it by far one of the best state sponsored economic development engines in the commonwealth (far better and more efficient than Cabella's or Boscov's). Tuition is high becuase state funding is so dreadfully low in comparision to most states and Pitt in fact coupled with Penn State has the HIGHEST tuition of ANY state sponsored university in the country. this is due in part because of Rendell's and the legislature's deliberate lack of funding whereby appropriations have only grown 0.7% since 2001 (note per year since then but total). Funding increases should be tied to tuition freezes agreed, but Pitt is not the problem, the state support is the problem. Students with high debt will continue to leave Pennsylvania and never come back producing the brain drain that we continue to see. Someone should point these stats out to Piccola (I have before but apparently he does not listen too well).
Robert Ciervo

Elizabeth Bryan said...

I agree, state taxpayer support is the problem. Richard Vedder’s studies find that more state subsidies of higher education correlates to less economic growth. How does more taking more money from taxpayers, for federal research that takes professors out of the classroom, make it a good investment in education? PA has the largest state grant program in the country still this taxpayer funding does little to keep tuition down. Penn State and Pitt have high tuition because they choose to raise tuition for fancy dorms, sports programs, research, et. al. Contrast this with Grove City which gets no state support, no federal aid, and has managed to keep tuition low.

Beau said...

De-emphasizing research is a terrible idea. Why would we want to curb innovation when it's what the economy needs most right now?

And as for decoupling higher ed from taxpayers -- this is the worst idea in the history of history. This nation honors free and compulsory public eduation; if anything, it should be FREE through 16th grade NOW. If you're going to dump higher ed from the state budget, well, hell, why not cut off students at ninth grade? Or just scrap public ed altogether and have five-year-olds be entitled to the best education they can afford?

Incidentally, I am ashamed that I went to the (public!) university where Richard Vedder is a prof. And if his ECON 104 course was any indication, if you refocused on teaching instead of research, he'd be out of a job.

Nathan Benefield said...

Government-funded research doesn't lead to "innovation" or economic growth, but it does lead to increased lobbying for research funding.

What is the logic behind making higher education FREE (by which you mean exorbitantly expensive, but paid for entirely with taxes) for everyone? Does it matter what they study, what grades they get, if they take 12 years to graduate college? Should Masters Degree and PhDs be free? Should we make four years of college compulsory? Note that there is a strong argument that a four-year college education isn't beneficial for many students, or needed in most jobs, but serves to screen potential employees so that employers don't have to. And since colleges are forced to to spend a great deal of time in remedial education for students who aren't college ready, shouldn't we instead focus attention on improving K-12 schools?

Finally, if you had read our Policy Brief, you would note that we don't suggest eliminating funding for higher ed - we do support eliminating funding for institutions and redirecting that aid to students. Their is no reason your alma mater should get preferential treatment to mine. We also suggest students be held accountable for the money, and universities must be transparent in how they are spending dollars, and how well they are performing - neither of which you can get any information on today.