“State System Day on the Hill” occurred in Harrisburg Pennsylvania on Wednesday, April 15, where students, administrators and alumni from the 14 PASSHE schools came together to speak about the importance of affordable public higher education.
In early March, Governor Tom Wolf proposed a $45.3 million increase in funding for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) for the next two years.
According to an e-mail to students sent from Edinboro University President Julie Wollman, if the legislature approved the increased allocation to the 14 State System universities, the Board of Governors will commit to freezing tuition and instructional fees in 2015-2016.
“If the legislature does not approve the full $45.3 M the BOG (Board of Governors) is very likely to increase tuition,” Wollman said.
The additional funding would be approximately equal to the typical 3 percent tuition increase, which is why a tuition freeze would be feasible, according to Wollman.
In response to this potential increase in funding, Vice President for Advancement Tina Mengine and a team of six student leaders attended the event with representatives from the other PASSHE schools in a “large-scale advocacy effort.”
“There are no better ambassadors for the university than our students,” Wollman said. “I meet very regularly with our elected officials here at home and in Harrisburg and I keep them apprised of what is happening at the university, but hearing straight from students is powerful and enjoyable and encourages support for the university.”
Students who attended were Student Trustee Shaquan Walker, EUSGA Vice President Tyler Jemetz, EUSGA President-elect William Lee Galt IV, Bethany D. Scott of the Highland Ambassadors and Rebecca Leonard and Noelle Jurcak of the Honors Program.
“I think it’s important for our legislators to meet students and be reminded about the value and importance of their financial support,” Mengine said. “Too often leaders get caught up in the day to day work and forget the core of issue, in this case, being able to provide an affordable education to students.”
Mengine gave insight on the success of the students who impressed our local legislators in the need to support Gov. Wolf’s proposal.
“The students that attended were well versed on the importance of an affordable education and were able to share their personal stories, from being a first generation college student to taking their Edinboro education and going to Johns Hopkins for graduate studies,” Mengine said. “In each student was a compelling reason to support the legislation…I believe we made an impact on the legislators we were able to visit with.”
Scott, who is the current president of the Highland Ambassadors, commented on representing the university.
“It was truly an honor to represent Edinboro University and to share my story with the legislators,” Scott said. “I strongly believe that funding and supporting institutions of higher education creates an investment that the government makes in the future of not only the students at those colleges and universities, but also in the communities of the state.”
Jemetz suspected that the elected officials already had their vote decided before they walked in the door, but is hopeful that their visit will help in their decisions in the future.
“I believe the representatives we talked to already had their votes figured out…this trip stands to continue to encourage dialogue between the state education system and these individuals,” Jemetz said. “While we may not have swayed this particular vote, out state senators and representatives will remember that we came to them to ask for their help.”
Wollman expressed that Edinboro University would be “delighted” to have no tuition increase for next year.
“No matter their political beliefs, I hope our students and their families will encourage their legislators to approve the portion of the Governor’s budget for the state system of higher education so that tuition is held to current levels,” Wollman said.
Meghan Findley is the managing editor for the Spectator. She can be reached by firstname.lastname@example.org.