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Facing budget cuts, Shippensburg U. shows lawmaker its innovative side

Rep. Kauffman says, 'If we're going to force the university system to do more with less, we have to equip them'

April 12, 2012|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com
  • Construction project manager Mark Knepley, right, talks about new student housing being built at Shippensburg (Pa.) University. Knepley showed state Rep. Rob Kauffman, left, and University President William Ruud the project's progress.
By Jennifer Fitch, Staff Writer

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. — Shippensburg (Pa.) University, which is facing hefty state funding cuts, hosted a tour Thursday for a legislator who praised its innovation.

University President William Ruud showed off the college’s new dormitory, renovated student union, rented textbooks, solar panel and energy-savings system.

“This is good research for me as I go back to (the capital in) Harrisburg and advocate,” said state Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin/Cumberland.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has suggested cutting funding to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, which includes Shippensburg University, by 30 percent for 2012-13. The system sustained an 18 percent cut for the current fiscal year.

Because of possible state reductions and other causes, Shippensburg University is grappling with an estimated $7.8 million budget shortfall for 2012-13, according to Denny Terrell, vice president of administration and finance.

Eighty percent of the operational budget is personnel, so further state funding reductions could affect staffing, Ruud said.

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Kauffman said the governor’s initial proposal for cuts in 2011-12 was whittled down in budget negotiations. He is hopeful the same thing can happen this year.

“We’re working with the goal of making sure the cuts are not (going to) affect the university,” Kauffman said.

Ninety percent of students enrolled in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s 14 universities are from Pennsylvania, Ruud said. Eighty-three percent of the graduates stay in the state, he said.

“We’re the backbone of Pennsylvania. ... They’re paying taxes, they’re getting jobs, and they’re sending their kids to school,” Ruud said.

Ruud said the universities are economic drivers.

“Every dollar the state gives us, we give them $6 back,” he said.

The legislature needs to pass reforms like allowing multistate purchasing capabilities and allowing applied doctorate programs, Ruud said. With fewer mandates, the universities could have more entrepreneurial ability and flexibility, he said.

“These are critical components,” Kauffman said. “If we’re going to force the university system to do more with less, we have to equip them.”

Some of Shippensburg University’s biggest initiatives now involve private-public partnerships, such as the $52 million in new housing that will be owned by the student association. The student union was overhauled with revenue from student fees.

Each year, the school receives 1,700 first-year students and 500 transfer students. Shippensburg has about 8,200 students, counting undergraduates and graduates.

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