By Jordan Lyons and Lauren Ressler –
It’s the subject of almost every newscast and newspaper article across the country. Increasing national debt, state budgets in crisis, and personal finances are stirring a movement to reverse this accumulation of unpaid money.
Republican Gov. Tom Corbett announced Tuesday his plans to reverse this trend and cut Pennsylvania’s state budget by billions of dollars.
And the main target? Education.
According to published reports, Corbett wants to oust over 1,500 state workers, freeze school employee’s salaries for one year and cut budgets for public education and higher education. He said he is fulfilling his campaign pledge to decrease the deficit without additional taxes or costs to the taxpayer.
“The substance of this budget is built on four core principles: Fiscal discipline, limited government, free enterprise and reform,” Corbett said.
The state subsidy to the fourteen state-owned colleges in Pennsylvania is expected to be cut by 50 percent. This means tuition could potentially skyrocket and the availability of financial aid will, most likely, drop. What does this mean for students going to college?
It’s going to be expensive,” predicted Penn Manor senior Caitlyn Whirt. “It’s already hitting hard. Financial aid is extremely hard to get.”
Phil Gale, Principal at Penn Manor High School said his worst fear is that students won’t go to college, that they will leave in greater debt, or that parents will be pressed to pay more out of pocket.
“We knew the budget was changing, but I was surprised by how much is being cut from higher education,” said Gale about the about the 50 percent cuts to state college budgets. “In a state like Pennsylvania, that’s a lot of money.”
Students, like Whirt, are relying more on scholarships and banking on receiving student loans to help them pay for school in the fall.
Senior Katie Maisel is aware of the rising tuition, but she said this will not affect her college choice. Maisel, who will be attending Penn State’s Honors college in the fall, said her parents want her to apply for more scholarships because of the drop in state funding.
Due to an expected increase in tuition for state-funded higher education, students may turn toward private colleges and out-of-state institutions as a more affordable option.
Dr. Mike Leichliter, superintendent for Penn Manor School District, said public institutions of higher education have always been the more affordable option for students.
“They (students) go for a good program at a lesser cost,” said Leichliter about state programs.
Phil Gale, however, emphasized private schools’ ability to give out more financial aid in the form of grants and scholarships because they do not rely on state funding.
Conservative legislators have always favored a smaller government and these cuts to public institutions may be paving the path to an all-private education.
Leichliter and Gale both agree that technical schools and community colleges may become a more common road for students after high school. These smaller educational institutions are more affordable and more goal-oriented, providing students with focused studies.
“We already support technical training at Penn Manor,” said Lichleiter. “We send more students to CTC than any other school district in Lancaster.”
Students and families are weighing their options and their wallets, while state-supported colleges scramble to reconfigure their budgets.