Marisa OlsonContact Email:
On March 24, University of the Sciences students Gary Smedley PharmD’11, Kareem Karara PharmD’11, and Tom Franko PharmD’11, along with Mary Kate McGinty, associate vice president of community and government relations, lobbied at the state capitol in support of private colleges and universities.
When Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell recently announced his 2009-2010 budget urging unprecedented tuition relief, he gave hope to families across the Commonwealth struggling with hefty higher-education tuition costs. Yet, amid the positive feedback, the Governor’s proposed plan overlooks a vital sector of Pennsylvania’s education system: private colleges and universities.
Governor Rendell’s proposed Tuition Relief Act could provide relief this fall to thousands of Pennsylvanians who want to attend any one of the Commonwealth’s 14 state-owned universities or 14 community colleges. His plan would make college tuition more affordable for every Pennsylvania family earning less than $100,000 a year and help more than 170,000 students. In addition to tuition relief for Pennsylvania families, the Governor’s budget also includes a $35 million increase in Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) tuition grants.
Smedley, Student Government Association (SGA) president, Karara, SGA VP of safety and security, and Franko, SGA VP of finance, joined more than 250 private college students from more than 45 private colleges and universities in Harrisburg to meet with state legislators in regard to the Governor’s proposal.
Armed with statistics demonstrating the importance of private colleges and universities, such as private colleges and universities award half of the bachelor degrees earned in the state, and that students attending these institutions comprised 41 percent of the state’s higher-ed student enrollment in 2007, Smedley, Karara, and Franko met with four state representatives and senators.
The students requested that private college students be included in any plans for tuition relief, citing that the plan penalizes current and future students attending private institutions and would shift students from the private to the public sector, thus increasing the cost to the state taxpayer and further overcrowding the public colleges and universities. Additionally, the students expressed their support and appreciation for the proposed increase in the PHEAA grant and discussed University of the Sciences’ unique contributions to the Commonwealth.
The proposed budget needs legislative approval by June 30, 2009.