State not doing job overseeing university budgets, faculty union laments
A state agency that oversees Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities is not providing adequate oversight over university budgets, a faculty union charged on Tuesday.
Steven Hicks, president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, said a 165-page analysis by a Harrisburg-area CPA firm that reviewed the finances of seven of the 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education suggests the State System permits the schools to mismanage their budgets and hide debt in affiliated corporations and foundations.
State System spokesman Kenn Marshall said State System officials have yet to analyze the entire 165-page report, but took issue with many of Hicks' assertions.
The union report did not “recognize the major pressures on our universities from rising health care and pension costs, all of which are funded primarily through a combination of student tuition and PASSHE's state appropriation,” he said.
The union commissioned Boyer & Ritter, LLC to conduct the analysis after seven of the schools said they needed to lay off faculty to balance their budgets in the face of declining enrollment and stagnant state subsidies. The report analyzed financial documents from Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Kutztown, Mansfield, and Slippery Rock universities.
It found significant variances between what the universities budgeted and what they actually collected and spent between June 30, 2009 to 2013.
Hicks was disturbed that the seven schools created affiliated entities or used foundations to take on debt for new construction.
“Tuition, fees, and state support monies are regularly being transferred to these entities, both directly and indirectly,” Hicks stated.
Marshall acknowledged that State System universities have tapped various public-private partnerships to help finance and construct student residence facilities over the last decade.
But he said neither tuition nor state appropriations underwrite auxiliary operations, such as student unions or student health centers, or student housing.
“Auxiliary operations are funded solely through user fees, including room and board,” he said.
Hicks said the schools need additional state support, but questioned whether their financial statements support calls for layoffs.
Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Paying tuition a challenge as costs skyrocket and aid varies
- Freeh, Tomalis emails at issue in appeals court hearing