Who pays for higher ed hike?

(289) Sunday, October 23, 2016 –Who will pay for the settlement State System for Higher Education made with the union representing 5,000 faculty members on Friday?

Senators spent this week on new laws allowing cops to wear body cameras without telling citizens and use radar for local speed traps.

If progress was made on pension reform, it occurred behind closed doors.

We must wait at least another week to learn if Big Pharma made enough campaign contributions to keep business as usual in the opioid epidemic.

Meanwhile, funding of the state universities became a larger issue Friday when an informal agreement saved full homecoming weekend celebrations.

Coaches, a separate union whose contract also expired about two years ago, did not go on strike.  They intended to cross picket lines.  Other stadium personnel became “contractors” for the weekend.

This was the first strike in the history of Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities and could have resulted in another national black eye.  Students scheduled to graduate in December and other important milestones regarding young people did not suffer irreversible damage.

Question now is “who pays for the settlement?”  Final details have not been released yet, but an estimate of at least $50 million per year averaged out over three years, until 2019, is not out of line.

Salary increases range from three to 17.5 percent tally $111 million in new costs.  Healthcare increases appear to be shared, but are significant.  A plan to shift more of the class load on lower paid adjuncts and instructors reportedly were shelved.

Frank Brogan, the system’s chancellor, is the state’s highest paid employee at $345,758.  Presidents of each of the 14 universities go for at least a quarter million each.

Full professors in the bargaining unit already earn upwards of $125,000, mostly for a nine-month work year.  Football coaches are above that.

In fact, 1,500 of their union members already make more than $100,000.  All 12,000 employees (85 percent covered by union contracts) are members of the generous benefit-defined state pension system.

Faculty unions resemble building trades rather than crafts such as steelworkers.  Not “brothers and sisters,” they are more like independent business people.  This is why faculty that crossed the picket lines during the three-day strike ranged to nearly ten percent on some campuses.

Not surprising, the financial problem of keeping state-supported higher education like other states is another making of past and present governors and legislators.  New lawmakers of a more conservative bent want to treat the colleges in the same manner they don’t shell out for public education.

Bottom line: Statistics on higher ed’s website present this status:

There has been a decline in enrollment of 12 percent to about 105,000 in the last six years.  Overall since 2006-07, however, the system has grown ten percent.

Not surprising, state funding has followed growth.  The appropriation of $433 million in 2015-16 is less than the $467 million in 2006-07.

Former Gov. Tom Corbett and the heavily Republican legislature hit the State System of Higher Education with the largest cut, 18 percent in 2011-12.

The following three years show no increase in appropriations and this year’s state funding was 5 percent higher than last.

The PA state system has not been competitive with other states in funding per full-time equivalent student.  In 2005-06 the national average was $7,614 versus $4,542 today.

In 20013-14, latest figures available, the comparison is $6,552 to $3,989,

Students paid more when politicians failed to step up to the plate.  Tuition increased from $5,038 in 2006-07 to last year’s average of $7,060.

In this era of supposed transparency (pause for laughter), when will we learn what Gov. Wolf and lawmaker leaders promised to help conclude negotiations this week?

If they cannot agree on a way, expect the kiddies to shoulder the increase.