State-Related Universities: A Unique System
Pennsylvania has a unique approach to public higher education with two systems: the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and the Commonwealth System of Higher Education. Four universities make up the Commonwealth System: the University of Pittsburgh, Temple University, Lincoln University and Penn State University. Each of these institutions are considered state-related, while the schools that make up the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education are state-owned.
Every year for nearly six decades, Pennsylvania has funded a tuition discount for in-state students attending Pitt and the other state related universities. This funding packs powerful benefits, reducing tuition costs by $15,000 annually for in-state Pitt students and making a world-class education more accessible and affordable for families throughout the state. As a condition for this funding the state appoints a specific number of trustees to each universities board—12 at Pitt—and comply with various financial and other regulatory requirements.
As state-related institutions, the funding for the Commonwealth System is considered non-preferred—meaning the general assembly must pass four separate bills by a two-thirds majority to provide funding for each university.
How the Pennsylvania Budget Process Works
For the University of Pittsburgh, the budget process begins nearly a year before the state legislature typically passes its budget bill. Each October, Pitt submits a funding request for the next fiscal year to state officials. Over the next few months, the governor and other officials review the University’s request along with the requests from the other state-related universities and all the various state agencies.
On the first Tuesday in February, the governor addresses the joint General Assembly with a speech highlighting various aspects of the proposed budget along with selected priorities. The governor’s budget includes suggest funding for ever state agency and many other things—including suggested funding for the four state-related universities.
Following the governor’s proposal, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees hold public hearings throughout February and March to review details of specifics requests, programs and initiatives which could be included in the final budget bill. During these hearings, various stakeholders present testimony including the presidents and chancellors of the state-related universities. It’s during these meetings that legislators have an opportunity to ask questions and learn more about what each school brings to Pennsylvania and its students and families.
Next, legislators work together to introduce budget bills. Typically, these bills differ from the governor’s proposed budget and often reflect information provided during budget hearings as well as the various priorities of the elected officials. As is normal for any legislation, a great deal of negotiation and discussion occurs between members and proposals are usually updated and amended. Eventually, a proposal will secure enough votes to pass both chambers and the bill will go to the governor for signature. This period typically lasts from April through June.
However, the state-related universities are not funded through the omnibus budget bill. Instead, the legislature must pass four separate funding bills—one for each institution.
June 30 is the end of the fiscal year and serves as a deadline for the legislature and governor to pass and enact a new budget for the next fiscal year.