The Keep Tuition Affordable
package of legislation was created to put students and parents first by refocusing the efforts of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) toward providing the highest quality advanced education possible at the lowest possible cost.
Achieving this goal requires a three-step approach:
1. Freeze tuition rates.
2. Control costs.
3. Reform PASSHE funding.
To achieve this, the Keep Tuition Affordable
package of legislation includes 10 separate bills.
Freeze Tuition Rates
1. Freeze Tuition Rates for 2012-13
– To help students and parents, who are struggling to make ends meet, the first bill would freeze tuition rates for the 2012-13 school year at the 2011-12 level.
2. Prohibit Mandatory Student Activity Fees
– Student activity fees at PASSHE universities range from $235 to $900 per year. In four years, that can add as much as $3,600 onto the cost of a student’s education. Many students focus on academics and do not participate in the extracurricular activities supported by these fees. To help drive down the cost of higher education, these fees would be made optional under a bill in the Keep Tuition Affordable package of legislation.
3. End Free Tuition for Family Members of PASSHE Employees
– PASSHE employees, their family members and even their domestic partners are currently eligible to attend state-owned universities for free. The cost of this “free” education is passed along to other students through higher tuition rates and taxpayers through higher state taxes. The third bill in the Keep Tuition Affordable package of legislation would end this practice.
4. Prohibit Paid Sabbaticals for Professors
– At any given time, up to 7 percent of PASSHE professors may be on paid sabbatical. That means they are being paid, but they are not teaching our students. At a time when students are being buried under the burden of high tuition rates, Pennsylvania simply cannot afford to pay professors who are not teaching. The fourth bill in the Keep Tuition Affordable package of legislation would ensure professors are in the classroom.
5. Cap Pay for College Presidents
– The governor of Pennsylvania is the top public servant in the Commonwealth. He is the head of state government, responsible for overseeing a $27 billion annual budget and tasked with overseeing the protection of Commonwealth residents. With this in mind, no PASSHE university president deserves to be paid more than the governor. To bring university presidents’ salaries in line with reality, the fifth bill in the Keep Tuition Affordable package of legislation would preclude any of them from being paid more than the governor.
6. Require Full-Time Work for Full-Time Pay
– Professors who teach a mere 12 hours in the classroom per week are considered “full time” by PASSHE universities. With most high school teachers spending up to or more than 30 hours per week in the classroom, it is obvious that professors can do more teaching. Therefore, the sixth bill in the Keep Tuition Affordable package of legislation would require “full time” professors to spend 15 hours in the classroom each week.
7. Put Union Presidents to Work Full Time
– Currently, professors who serve as union presidents at PASSHE universities are considered “full time” if they spend nine hours per week in a classroom. They are exempted from three hours of classroom work due to their union responsibilities. Students and taxpayers should not be subsidizing union duties. That is why the seventh bill in the Keep Tuition Affordable package of legislation would eliminate this provision and hold union presidents to the same full-time work standards of other professors.
8. Encourage Hiring Part-Time Professors
– Under previous union contracts, PASSHE was prevented from filling more than 25 percent of teaching positions with part-time professors. This arbitrary limit drives up the cost of higher education for students, parents and taxpayers by forcing them to pay for the expanded benefits available to full-time professors. It also deprives students of the real-world experience that many part-time professors – who often work at jobs in their field in the private sector – bring into the classroom. For this reason, the eighth bill in the Keep Tuition Affordable package of legislation would eliminate this arbitrary cap on the percentage of part-time professors.
9. Place a Moratorium on Frivolous Construction Projects
– While fancy sports arenas, new dormitories and state-of-the-art student and recreation centers may be appealing to some people, most students, parents and taxpayers simply cannot afford right now to pay for them. With this in mind, the ninth bill in the Keep Tuition Affordable package of legislation would place a moratorium on non-emergency construction and improvement projects that do not yet have legally binding contracts.
Reform PASSHE Funding
10. Provide Funding Directly to Students
– Pennsylvania taxpayers currently send money through the state budget to the PASSHE universities based on a formula. Implementing the cost-saving measures outline above without fully reforming the PASSHE funding process may fail to deliver the results that students, parents and taxpayers deserve. That is why the final bill in the Keep Tuition Affordable package of legislation would use the state dollar currently provided to PASSHE universities to instead provide grants that would be provided directly to students. Most students, regardless of their major, would receive a base grant of approximately $1,800 to help them pay for tuition. In addition, students with “job-ready majors,” or those who are studying in areas that are in high economic demand, would receive an additional grant of approximately $1,800.