Budget cuts to the PA state school system have taken up a lot of press the past few weeks. I was approached multiple times as I walked to class about writing letters to governor Corbett telling him how enraged I am that he would dare cut funding to higher education.
A woman handed me a postcard and a pen and asked to sign the card so that they could send it to Corbett in protest of the budget cuts. I told her I would think about it. As I walked away I could not help but laugh a little to myself because directly behind the table they had set up was a multi-million dollar construction project; that is the new Student Center. Other expensive renovations have taken place on my campus and there are questions raised about how necessary some of these projects are.
When I originally heard that our school was spending millions of dollars on renovations to several buildings such as a theater, student center, and dining hall, I was a little upset.
“Couldn’t we be spending that money elsewhere?” I had asked. The reply was...no.
Although my knowledge in this area is iffy at best, I will do my best to explain the allocation of funds as I understand it currently (corrections would be greatly appreciated). Evidently our university was offered a certain amount of funds, let’s say 50 million dollars, although I am fairly certain it was even more than that. Now whether we had to apply for this I do not know, but at any rate, we as a university had the ability to use that 50 million dollars on construction. That is what the money was allocated for. So this may be how I would converse with the system:
“You have 50 million dollars to spend on construction” they tell me.
“Well we actually could use that money to hire more professors and keep tuition low and class sizes at an optimum size.” I said.
“Oh no, I’m sorry you can use it for buildings, and things like that.” they reply.
“Yea that would be nice, but we need to improve the quality of education here. That’s why student’s are here. How about we use a few million to renovate some of our pre-existing buildings, and use the rest to improve the departments here.” I pleaded.
“Yea....you can’t do that. You either use the money for a building or you don’t get it at all.”
This is roughly how I understand the distribution of state funds. It is probably far too elementary an explanation, but I hope it shows my point. The issue is not a lack of funds. It is that there is this crazy way of allocating funds. When it comes to students what can we do about this? Fighting the budget cuts doesn’t really help the situation. And cutting the budget only harms us so much because of the way the system is set up. That is what needs to change. How do we change the wasteful system that we have?