Allegheny Dems call out GOP for holding universities’ funding hostage

Pitt students bear cost of inaction from Republican leaders

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 21 – As Pennsylvania’s four state-related universities continue operating without state assistance they regularly receive through the state budget to keep in-state tuition affordable for more than 70,000 students, Democratic officials today joined students from the University of Pittsburgh in Schenley Park for a news conference discussing the consequences of delaying the state funding.

The House last met in July, when Republican leaders and a handful of extremist members stymied legislation providing funding to Pitt, Penn State, and Temple universities, forcing the schools to begin the semester without assistance from the state. Lincoln University’s appropriation passed the House but remains stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate. This funding is appropriated annually through the state budget process.

“As a graduate from their law school, I’m lucky to know firsthand that the University of Pittsburgh is a prestigious institution offering world class opportunities and resources to prepare our future leaders for successful careers in myriad fields. For dozens of years, their unparalleled programming has been made possible with help from state funding. Unfortunately, Republican leaders in the legislature are now holding this money hostage, using college students as pawns to advance unpopular culture war positions that many of their own constituents disagree with,” said state Rep. Emily Kinkead, D-Allegheny.

“These elected officials hold extreme views, and some of our state’s brightest students are paying the price for those beliefs, literally, through tuition hikes that could have been prevented had Republican leaders supported the spending package we voted on in July. It’s really a disgrace to the whole legislative process, and it’s jeopardizing affordable tuition for tens of thousands of university students in Pennsylvania.”

Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, said, “It’s time for all parties to come to the table and finally deliver crucial funding for Pitt and the other state-related universities. Our students, educators, staff and workers are depending on us to finish the job. This is a time for cooperation, not culture wars. I look forward to negotiating in good faith to move these dollars out the door for every Pennsylvania student.”

For decades, the General Assembly has provided direct support to Pennsylvania’s world class state-related higher education institutions, which use the appropriations to fund reduced in-state tuition for students. Pitt, Penn State, Temple and Lincoln each have their own legacies of distinction and contributions to scientific research, agricultural excellence and academic rigor, and ensuring that students from Pennsylvania can attend these universities at a reduced rate of tuition has always been a bipartisan priority. 

According to Pitt, the university’s appropriation saves each in-state undergraduate student approximately $64,000 in tuition costs over four years. Pitt’s economic impact to Pennsylvania totals more than $5 billion annually, and 47,000 jobs in the commonwealth are supported by Pitt.

The Republican-controlled Senate held session five times during August and September but did not address the funding issue. The House is set to reconvene next week.