Funding for Pa. state-related universities passes Legislature

The bill now heads to the governor’s desk after months of wrangling.

By: - November 16, 2023 5:07 pm

The Capitol building in Harrisburg (Capital-Star photo)

The General Assembly on Wednesday sent a bill to Gov. Josh Shapiro’s desk, after months of wrangling, that will fund state-related colleges and universities. 

The Senate voted 45-5 to pass legislation to provide level funding for state-related schools Penn State University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Temple University, while Lincoln University and Penn College of Technology will receive increases of $3,235,000.

The House concurred, voting 149-54, and Shapiro signed the bill on Thursday.

Funding in the bill is directed to provide tuition discounts for in-state students, while universities are required to meet financial reporting requirements as a condition of receiving the money. 

Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R-Indiana) described the bill as a “consensus product,” during remarks on the Senate floor. 

State Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia) noted the effort of 14 students from Lincoln University who walked the 66 miles from the Chester County campus to Harrisburg in an effort to persuade lawmakers to approve funding for the school. 

“I think all of us on both sides of the aisle were moved by that effort,” Hughes said. 

Every Democrat in the Senate voted to support the bill, while Republicans Sens. Chris Gebhard (R-Lebanon), Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango), Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin), Tracy Pennycuick (R-Montgomery), and Judy Ward (R-Blair), voted no

State Sen. Cris Dush (R-Jefferson), who voted yes on the bill, expressed concern about recent on-campus violence against those supporting Israel and Jewish students, as well as the University of Pittsburgh conducting fetal tissue research

“Although I voted yes today, my vote next year on the funding of these universities is contingent on them…continuing on the path that I’ve seen in the last couple of weeks at making some corrective action,” Dush said.

Dush also said he wants to ensure that the schools are responsive to future Right-To-Know requests.

“House Democrats have stood united over the past several months in our commitment to increasing funding for higher education,” Rep. Jordan Harris (D-Philadelphia), said in a statement on behalf of House Democratic leadership. “We have voted multiple times this summer and fall to send money to our state-related universities. As recent as October, the House approved both the increased funding to these universities and a tuition freeze for their students.”

“This week, the Senate Republicans decided to remove the tuition freeze and flat fund our universities, making our students responsible for the difference,” Harris continued. “While we want an increase for all state-related universities, we must balance that desire with the reality that these universities need funding now to continue delivering high-quality education without interruption.”

House Bill 1556, which aims to increase transparency to the records of the state-related universities, was unanimously approved by the state Senate on Wednesday. The House already approved the bill by a 201-1 vote on Oct. 30, with state Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) casting the only vote against it. That bill will also advance to the governor.

This story was updated at 5:07 p.m. on Nov. 16 to add that Gov. Shapiro signed the bill.

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John Cole
John Cole

John Cole is a journalist based in Philadelphia. He's worked for various outlets such as The Northeast Times, PoliticsPA, and PCN. In these previous roles, he covered a wide range of topics from local civic association meetings to races across the commonwealth. He earned a degree in journalism from Temple University.