Money From Higher Education Agency Will Boost State Grants

Pennsylvania’s state grant program is getting a shot in  the arm from the agency that administers it.  The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency has approved a $50 million public service contribution to the program. Along with the expected state appropriation, that’s raising the anticipated maximum state grant from $3,541 to $4,309 for the 2011-12 academic year. The supplement is funded entirely through the agency’s business earnings.

PHEAA spokesman Keith New says the agency has been doing a series of restructuring and cost-cutting initiatives, they’ve developed new business and they’ve been able to secure their financial position sufficiently to be able to provide the additional funding. Pennsylvania is now one of four official federal student loan servicers, enabling the agency to grow its business.

Representative William Adolph, PHEAA Board Chairman, says the agency has worked diligently to cut costs and boost productivity to ensure that its best able to serve the needs of Pennsylvania students and families struggling to afford higher education.

In addition to the supplemental funding for state grants, PHEAA has extended the deadline for community college students to file the annual State Grant application from May 1 to August 1 for non-renewal students. The extension is expected to provide awards to approximately 15,000 additional students.

The Governor’s proposed State Grant appropriation is $380.9 million. Once the Commonwealth budget is passed, final awards will be recalculated for all students.

PHEAA expects to award grants to 192,000 students for the next academic year.


PA Budget Debate

State Budget Battle Shifts to Senate Side of the Capitol

The budget bill’s next stop is the Senate Appropriations Committee, following this week’s largely party line vote in the State House.  Senate Appropriations chair Jake Corman (R-Centre) tells us they’ll spend the next week or so reviewing the legislation, and hope to have an action plan by the first or second week of June.  When asked about the $27.3-billion dollar bottom line, Corman said, “We’re certainly not locked into any number.  It could go lower, it could go higher.” One of the most contentious parts of this week’s House budget debate was what to do with this year’s revenue, which has so far exceeded expectations to the tune of $500-million dollars. 

On the issue of higher education, the House budget bill would fund the 14-State System schools at 85% of the current year’s appropriation.  State Related Universities (like Penn State and Pitt) would receive 75% of the current year’s funding.  While this compares favorably to the roughly 50% cuts that Governor Tom Corbett proposed in March, Corman says he’d like to do even better and show some parity between the State System and State Related universities.  “We’ll review that to see where monies are available… but the House did a pretty good job in showing commitment to higher ed,” Corman says.  Senator Corman’s 34th Senatorial District includes State College Borough, the home of Penn State University

Corman says, overall, the House did a good job crafting a budget.  “The Senate will have a different set of priorities I’m sure, and we’ll put our stamp on it.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that we disagree with what they did, just that we maybe have different priorities.”  The process will result in a Senate version of the budget, from which legislative leaders and the Corbett Administration can negotiate.  Like all legislative leaders, Corman is well aware of the June 30th budget deadline.  “The people of Pennsylvania have been put through enough over the past eight years,” he says.  The budget process is currently running ahead of schedule.