Financial aid proposal excludes Pitt

By Lindsay Carroll

Some college freshmen could receive thousands of dollars more to attend school next year. ‘ ‘ ‘… Some college freshmen could receive thousands of dollars more to attend school next year. ‘ ‘ ‘ But Pitt students won’t see Gov. Ed Rendell’s proposed increase in college aid, at least not yet. ‘ ‘ ‘ Rendell proposed giving up to $7,600 for tuition and room-and-board to families who earn less than $100,000 per year, but the money will go to students attending state-system universities and community colleges. ‘ ‘ ‘ State-related schools, like Pitt, receive some funding from private donors and some from the state and federal budget. Thus,’ Rendell’s proposal leaves out such schools. ‘ ‘ ‘ Pitt spokesman John Fedele said that the University hasn’t decided how to react to the new proposal. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘We haven’t seen all the details of the governor’s proposal, and it is just a proposal at this point,’ said Fedele. ‘But Pitt students and their families have the same financial concerns as the students in the state schools of higher education.’ ‘ ‘ Pennsylvania Department of Education spokesperson Michael Race said that state-related schools are left out of the aid boost because they are not under complete state control. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘[State-related schools] operate independently in terms of setting their own tuition and their own expenditures,’ said Race. ‘It was the governor’s thought that we’d like to give reduced tuition to everyone who wants to go to a Pennsylvania college. But we have to start somewhere.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ Race said Rendell decided to start with state-system schools and community colleges partially because ‘they’re the schools that tend to be the most affordable and accessible.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ State schools currently charge $5,358 for tuition, while in-state, full-time Pitt students pay $12,832, according to Pitt’s Web site. ‘ ‘ ‘ Race added that the governor would be happy to expand the plan in the future. ‘ ‘ Chancellor Mark Nordenberg released a statement in December that addressed the economic difficulties facing Pitt. In the fiscal year 2009, the state will put funds budgeted for Pitt ‘on reserve,’ which means that Pitt’s original allocation could decrease by 6 percent ‘mdash; $11.3 million. ‘ ‘ ‘ Suzanne McColloch, Pitt’s financial aid director, said that despite economic times, the incoming freshman class will not require more funding than other classes. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘We do not have any reason to believe that this year’s freshman class will be dramatically different from classes in the past couple of years, with regard to financial aid applications, eligibility and funding,’ said McColloch in an e-mail. ‘ ‘ ‘ According to the governor’s budget, Pennsylvania will give Pitt about $160 million. State-system schools will receive a combined $519 million, and community colleges will receive a combined $287 million. ‘ ‘ ‘ The governor, who announced the year’s budget last week, will propose the boost through the Emergency Tuition Relief Act. He plans to fund the increase by legalizing certain video poker games and taxing businesses for the revenue they earn from the games. ‘ ‘ ‘In helping these students, we are investing in a brighter future for ourselves, as well,’ said’ Rendell in a press release. ‘ ‘ The proposal will benefit students attending 14 universities, including Slippery Rock, Clarion, Indiana, California and Clearfield. It will also help students at 14 community colleges, which include the Community College of Allegheny County, Harrisburg Area Community College, Pennsylvania Highlands Community College and Butler County Community College. ‘ ‘ ‘ Three other state-related schools ‘mdash; Lincoln, Penn State and Temple universities ‘mdash; and their satellite campuses will not receive the boost. ‘ ‘ ‘ About 24,000 undergraduate students attend Pitt-affiliated campuses. Penn State has 68,680 undergraduate students, Temple has 25,505 and Lincoln University has 1,200, according to the fact books for those universities. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ According to the budget-in-brief, featured on Rendell’s Web site, Pennsylvania will budget more than $2 billion toward higher education. ‘ ‘ ‘ The college aid-boost proposal comes at a time when Rendell is making effort to stimulate the economy through infrastructure, health care and education programs. Others could be cut, such as arts programs and the Governor’s Schools of Excellence program.