State budget issues affect EU

Category:  News
Wednesday, September 9th, 2015 at 9:57 PM

Just when you thought that your budget was the only issue that imposed on your well-being as a student, the impact of the Pennsylvania state budget impasse steps in to knock you down a bit more.

However, Edinboro University has stepped in to soften that blow as the budget issue remains at a standstill.

The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, better known as PHEAA, has recently informed all public and private institutions in the state that it cannot confirm aid awards or disburse funds until a final budget is adopted in Harrisburg. In addition, the university is beginning the 2015-2016 school year with a $3.3 million deficit. Also, the State System Board of Governors increased tuition by 3.5 percent.

While the PHEAA standstill and million dollar deficit may seem related, they are not, other than they are both late. The deficit reflects that of increasing costs for employee benefits such as healthcare and retirement, as well as student scholarships from the university.

President Julie Wollman said, “Last year, we overcame a projected deficit and came out ahead thanks to hard work to achieve savings in energy and personnel costs and better than expected annual enrollment. We plan to do the same this year.”

“Our leaders will continue to act on opportunities for savings in areas that don’t impact students’ experience or education while investing in support for student success and the overall quality of an Edinboro University education,” added Director for University Communications Jeffrey Hileman.

Wollman stated that the cost of tuition was already in place before the budget stalemate became an issue. This was primarily because, as Hileman stated, “it appeared that the state appropriation would not increase enough to cover increasing operating costs such as the cost of employee benefits. With no state budget in place, it’s still not certain what the appropriation will be.”

With the budget stalemate in Harrisburg, the university is taking action as they wait for their funding from the state, which typically supplies 27 percent of its funds. Many students rely on PHEAA grants and other forms of aid administered by the agency to assist them in payment of their education. As a result, the university has taken steps to help these students out.

“So that students do not incur late fees, the university will credit their accounts with the amount of their preliminary estimated award from PHEAA for tuition and fees until the budget is approved and aid funds are released,” stated Wollman in an email sent out to students.

Provided that the stalemate continues, the university will generate checks for that purpose for qualified students from its own funds, according to Wollman, to students who have been awarded aid for living expenses. These steps taken to help ease this financial burden are temporary and the university will not be held responsible for any remaining balances once awards have been received. Rather, students will be responsible for paying or repaying the difference if PHEAA reduces the amount of their awards for any reason.

PHEAA reportedly administered more than $6 million to students for the 2014-2015 year, which included grants, scholarships and work study, Hileman told goerie.com.

Many institutions of higher education face financial challenges, though, the university did end the last school year with a positive budget and remains optimistic that Edinboro’s steps to tackle these issues will be effective.

As for what students can do, Wollman added that students should be encouraging our state’s political leaders, the governor and legislators, to settle on a budget.

Karlee Dies is the news editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at eupnews.spectator@gmail.com.

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