The University is facing either large tuition increases or drastic program cuts if Governor Robert Casey proposed cut of $18 million in state aid to the University passes the state legislature. Wednesday, Casey proposed nearly halving the University's state funding for fiscal year 1992, reducing last year's $37.3 million appropriation to $19 million. University officials yesterday called the recommended cuts a catastrophe, saying their first plan of action is to try to convince the state to restore the aid. "In a word, it's disastrous," Senior Vice President Marna Whittington said yesterday. "We're right now looking at everything to figure out what to do." In an annual presentation of budget proposals, Casey requested slashing general funding to the University from $16.6 million to $6.6 million. Casey also suggested substantial cuts to the Veterinary School, the Dental School, and the Medical School. The University uses the general aid throughout the budget. Whittington said last month the funds have helped keep tuition increases down in the past. President Sheldon Hackney could not be reached for comment yesterday. Both Whittington and the University's Harrisburg lobbyist James Shada said the proposal, if passed, would have wide-ranging effects for the entire University. Whittington said the loss of revenue would either represent "substantially" shrunken programs or increases in tuition. These cuts would affect tuition for next year. Whittington said she did not know how much tuition or programs would be affected. "We don't have that many vacancies, and we don't have that much discretionary [funds]," Whittington said. "[This loss in funding] would impact the quality of the Penn experience." The Vet School lost the single largest amount of any program at the University. Casey recommended that the state cut $2.4 million dollars -- 30 percent -- from its appropriation. Last year, the school received nearly 40 percent of its funding from the state. Edwin Andrews, dean of the Vet School, could not be reached for comment yesterday. In the past year, the University has been hard hit by federal and state budget cuts. In Fiscal Year 1990, the state froze the University's funding after Casey proposed cutting it by four percent. Last month, Casey cut $1.2 million from this amount, prompting fears at the University of a potential $1 million budget deficit. Earlier this week, proposed federal budget cuts left several financial aid programs in jeopardy. These cuts came in grant and work-study programs but the proposal also called for an increase in some types of loans. Shada said it will be difficult to convince legislators to restore the aid because of the state's own worsening fiscal health. Casey also proposed Wednesday the largest tax hike in state history. "The tinkering is complicated by the potential need for taxes," Shada said. "If additional monies are to be spent, they will have to increase the tax package even more." The University plans to increase lobbying efforts in Harrisburg, Shada said yesterday, making its presence "a little broader, a little more intense, have a longer shelf life, and involve more people" than in past years. Shada predicted that Hackney and Whittington will be meeting with statehouse representatives "when necessary, and where it is proper." Shada said he and fellow lobbyist Paul Cribbens will meet with members of two congressional subcommittees in hopes of improving the vet school's apportionment. Shada emphasized that Casey's budget requests are a rough draft of the final budget. He added that while modifications are certain, the extent of change is unknown. Area state representatives and senators said they were deeply discouraged by Casey's proposals, saying the cuts to the University would reach farther than the edge of campus. "The University is an important institution for West Philadelphia, an important institution for the city -- its largest private employer -- and an important institution for the state and country," said State Representative Vincent Hughes (D-Phila.), whose district includes the University. "Very significant work gets done there." House Minority Leader Matthew Ryan (D-Phila.) said he would fight for more money for the University, calling Casey's proposals "outrageous and unfair." "It's going to make it . . . very, very difficult if not impossible to adjust their budgets so that the students and the University can be treated fairly," Ryan said. State Representative Hughes added that budget cuts might cause high tuition increases, making it more difficult for minority students to attend the University.Comments powered by Disqus
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