Government Affairs & General Updates
July 21, 2023
1. PASSHE board approves tuition freeze for fifth consecutive year. The Board of Governors of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education voted Thursday to freeze tuition for in-state students for the coming academic year for the fifth consecutive years. If tuition had kept pace with inflation since 2018, it would be 21% higher today, system officials said in a statement after the vote. The state budget passed by the House and Senate would provide an increase of $33 million, or 6%, to PASSHE universities. With that level of investment, in the last two years the state has increased funding by $108 million, or nearly 23%, with PASSHE receiving $585.6 million in 2023-24, up from $477.5 million in 2021-22. "PASSHE is proud of our partnership with the state, which helps Pennsylvania's students get the education and skills for the most in-demand jobs at the lowest cost," said Chancellor Dan Greenstein. "Higher education is changing, and State System universities are continuing to evolve to meet the new needs of students, employers and Pennsylvania's economy. Together with the state, we are strengthening the pipeline of talented and skilled people from the classroom to the workforce and providing value to students as they gain the knowledge to build successful careers close to home."
2. Lawmakers brace for budget impasse that appears increasingly likely to last until the fall. With the state House deadlocked at 101 Democrats and 101 Republicans, House Republicans are bracing for an impasse that will stretch through the summer, Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, told reporters Thursday. House Democrats had a 102-101 majority in the chamber but that edge evaporated Wednesday with the resignation of Rep. Sara Innamorato, D-Allegheny, who is running for county executive in Allegheny County. House Speaker Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia, has scheduled a special election to determine Innamorato's successor on Sept. 19. Grove, the Republican chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said that lawmakers said that representatives in the chamber could be called back to resume work on code bills and to vote on funding for the state-related university funding if House Democrats were interested in working with their Republican counterparts to compromise. However, there's been no indication that will happen. "If/when the Senate signs House Bill 611, without a Fiscal Code there are many line-items, programs and payments which still cannot be paid. We will be keeping a close eye on all spending from the Shapiro administration and will be looking for expenditures that are not: 'Programs that affect health, safety and protection of Pennsylvanians or as required under federal law, state court decisions or the Pennsylvania Constitution," Grove said. State agencies have money appropriated in 2022-23 that they have not spent, and based on what happened during the prolonged budget impasse of 2015, that they will likely use to pay bills even without a budget in place, Grove said.
3. Study: Market better, 'foster engagement' for rural growth Rural Pennsylvania has seen its population drop, with residents moving to suburbs, cities, and out-of-state. The demand for rural life, however, isn’t always shrinking. Sometimes, it’s a matter of figuring out who wants to live in a rural place – and marketing to them accordingly. A study from the Center for Rural Pennsylvania says a strong education system, access to outdoor activities, and a relaxed pace of life could all help rural towns and townships grow. Changes in recent years have given rural areas an opportunity. “A lot of moving patterns are changing due to COVID and remote work,” said co-author Joseph Hafer, an assistant professor in the department of public and nonprofit administration at the University of Memphis. Hafer, along with Penn State University-Harrisburg Professor Bing Ran, found that people more open to relocating were married, white, with school-aged children, hold student debt, have conservative political views, and work remotely in some capacity. Remote work might be especially crucial for low-population areas that have slower job growth. If the risk of not having work in a new town is low, the other advantages of a place might carry more weight. Some small towns can offer more amenities than what people expect rural areas to have, Hafer said. Targeted marketing could help boost rural parts of the state, as could state-level support of community development based on local communities’ wants and needs, he noted. Ran and Hafer recommended some straightforward policy ideas like pilot programs for relocation incentives and some more abstract ones like “foster civic engagement” and “enhance local government capacity.” “Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet,” Hafer said. Read More