Budget impasse could spur tuition hike at state-related universities

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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Tuition at four state-related schools, soon could be at risk of a rate hike if the General Assembly doesn't pass a budget.

The General Assembly needs to approve separate spending bills for those universities (Penn State University, University of Pittsburgh, Temple University, and Lincoln University), or students and their parents may have to pick up the tab.

Students at state-related schools, like Temple University, may have a lot more on their minds than their studies these days.

Rep. Joe Markosek, Democratic chair of the House Appropriations committee, knows why.

Rep. Joe Markosek (D-Allegheny) said "tuitions may go up. We're striving very hard to get things passed here so that doesn't happen, but this could create a lot of problems for Pennsylvania students, and their families."

The state budget remains unfunded, as well as the money Pennsylvania provides to several universities.

Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Director Mark Stier said "Temple, Lincoln, Pitt, that needs to be funded, but they need to go back and do a better job. No one expects perfection from the General Assembly of Pennsylvania, but we should be expecting something better than this."

Temple University, alone, receives $150 million a year from the General Assembly, which it in turn, passed along a $12,000 discount to in-state students. Without a spending bill in place, there could be changes on campus.

Temple University spokesperson Ray Betzner said "there is a potential for tuition increases. There is a potential for a reduction in services, and there's always the potential for layoffs."

"Over the next couple of weeks, we're going to have to start making some very serious decisions, about what life is going to be like at Temple in the spring semester," Betzner added.

Temple University junior and future political reporter Cassie Semyon said "I'm attending Temple on scholarships, so that means I'm going to have to take out a loan, or find more scholarships or different ways to pay for my education."

Semyon's concern took her to the State Capitol.

"Temple, Pitt, Penn State, we're not right here in the throws of these negotiations so we kind of here about it second hand, so I wanted to come out here and get the real story of what's going on so I can explain it to students when I return to school," Semyon said.

Meanwhile, back on campus, students are making their own voices heard.

"Students on campus are phone banking, they're calling their representatives and telling them why we need the funding," Semyon said.

"Democracy is not a spectator sport, people should be involved, but it certainly sends a message to us here, that this is very important to them," Markosek said.

"The clock is ticking, and we increasingly look to Harrisburg to give us an answer about what our future is going to be like," Betzner said.