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The University should have expected severe cuts to its state funding, and in the future may not receive any money from the state, the chairperson of the House Education Committee said yesterday afternoon. The state legislature will have to review the "special treatment" it has granted the University and other private colleges and universities when it debates the state budget, Education Committee Chairperson Robert Cowell (D-Allegheny) said. "Part of the debate that will go on this year, in the context of the tight fiscal situation, will be on the question of the state's responsibility to fund a very limited number of private institutions," Cowell said. "Most private institutions in the Commonwealth, many of which have outstanding programs, receive no such preferential treatment," Cowell added. While he would not speculate on the outcome of such a review, he said the legislature's decision on University funding may set a precedent for years to come. Senior Vice President Marna Whittington and Assistant Vice President for Commonwealth Relations James Shada, who lobbies for the University, were unavailable for comment. In his annual budget address last week, Casey proposed slashing the University's state appropriation from $37.6 million to $19 million. Administrators and local state representatives have denounced the proposal, calling it "disastrous" and "outrageous and unfair." Casey proposed 40 to 50 percent funding cuts to non-state-related colleges and universities while freezing funding for state-related schools. Cowell said if the legislature decided to stop funding any schools, the non-state-related schools would be the first to go. Cowell added the University would need to cooperate extensively with Philadelphia area representatives if it were to have "any hope at all" of increasing its appropriation over Casey's proposal. Cowell also said Casey's budget address cannot be compared to previous budget proposals due to the severity of the state's fiscal problems. "Typically in the past we have had debates about how much appropriations would be increased," Cowell said. "Never in my recollection have we been confronted with proposals to cut higher education proposals." But Cowell -- as well as several other state legislators -- emphasized the budget proposals were new and subject to change, especially since Casey has proposed the largest tax hike in state history. He predicted it would be difficult to restore the University's appropriation to this year's level without tax increases. Last year, the University received the same state appropriation as the year before, even though Casey proposed a four-percent cut.

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