On March 24 Jeannie Supreme and I were asked to represent Seton Hill (SHU) at the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania’s (AICUP) annual Student Lobby Day. We traveled to Harrisburg to lobby our local legislators about funding for private universities for 2009-2010.
By Stephanie Isacco
On March 24 Jeannie Supreme and I were asked to represent Seton Hill University (SHU) at the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania’s (AICUP) annual Student Lobby Day. We traveled to Harrisburg to lobby our local legislators about funding for private universities for 2009-2010.
With the tough economic times at hand, everyone is feeling the pinch when it comes to tuition. Governor Rendell has proposed the use of additional revenue for higher education, but do not get your hopes up as it is only for the state schools and community colleges in Pennsylvania. We had the task of trying to convince senators and representatives that private universities deserve the same support, and that they should support additional funding for PHEAA grants.
Rendell’s budget proposes a $45 million increase in the Student Grant Program, which is need-based and provides the option to choose between public and private universities. AICUP is encouraging legislators to support this section of the budget, but they are also trying to dissuade them from accepting this win at the cost of students of private universities and taxpayers.
AICUP proposes that legislators should require a capacity study of the state system of higher education to determine if community colleges and state universities have room or means for the influx of students that will come with increased funding in only one sector. The governor expects his plan to add 20,000 more students to those sectors next year alone. We have seen increases in enrollment on our campus and understand that it would be impossible to add that many students without some detriment to the quality of life and education.
Currently, independent colleges and universities receive only 15 percent of the total state funding, but they enroll 41 percent of the college students in the state and award 49 percent of the degrees. It costs taxpayers about $3,602 to produce a degree at a private university because these institutions match the funding from the state $8.50 in institutional aid for every dollar received, but that cost is close to $22,000 per degree at state institutions. With these numbers, it is obvious that independent universities and colleges provide a very important service to the state, and it is only fair that they continue to receive state funding equivalent to that service.
Jeannie and I met with Senator Kim Ward and Representative Richard Stevenson to make these points and share our personal experiences. It was a busy day on Capitol Hill, but we were received well. Each of them showed genuine concern for the college students in their districts, and they were thankful to hear about the situation that many students at SHU are in.
We feel that lobbying is a very important privilege that voters have because a simple visit or voice of concern can make a legislator aware of the effect of their choices. If you have any concerns about any government decisions or upcoming votes, I encourage you to contact your local legislators. If you want change, you need to get off of the hill and speak your mind. SHU students are fortunate to have Representative Tim Kreiger and Senator Kim Ward and within walking distance of the hill.