As Harrisburg budget impasse continues, Penn State’s leaders plan for future

Nicholas P. Jones, Penn State’s executive vice president and provost, and David J. Gray, senior vice president for Finance and Business, have shared the following message with the University community.

Dear Penn State faculty and staff,

We are writing to you today to begin a conversation about our plans in the face of an unprecedented budget stalemate in Harrisburg. As you know, Penn State is now in its eighth month without an appropriation from the Commonwealth. What this means in practical terms is that Penn State currently is facing a $300 million budget shortfall for 2015-16, the majority of which is used to lower tuition for Pennsylvania residents and to fund agricultural research and extension operations that have a profound impact on the Commonwealth’s largest industry. The appropriation also is critical to our operations at Pennsylvania College of Technology, and includes more than $11 million in Department of Human Services medical assistance funding for the Penn State Hershey Medical Center. The significance of this concern cannot be underscored enough.

As Penn Staters, we all know our work has an enormous impact in every corner of Pennsylvania and around the world. The collective success that we have seen on a global stage is no accident – it is the direct result of the Commonwealth’s continued support for Penn State’s students and their families, and by extension the people and industries of Pennsylvania, over the course of more than 150 years. Our very mission is to serve the Commonwealth. Our partnership is enduring and has borne fruit for all Pennsylvanians even in the most challenging times.

What we are doing

We remain hopeful that Penn State’s 2015-16 appropriation will eventually be provided. However, as this stalemate drags on into uncharted territory we must begin planning for the previously unthinkable possibility that Penn State may be forced to operate without any appropriation from the Commonwealth.

In the coming months and until the budget impasse in Harrisburg is resolved, we are counting on all of you to help us through this challenge.  We have begun contingency planning for this year and next.  Beginning immediately, we have asked that all units eliminate business travel unless absolutely necessary, including travel for professional development. We also have requested that budget executives review planned expenditures with a view to curtail spending wherever possible and set aside uncommitted general fund resources into a budgetary reserve.  Though these actions will not come close to solving the full budget shortfall, they will help, and assist us to both assess potential impacts as well as inform our decision making should a major rescission be necessary.

It is critical that the legislature and governor act if we are to avoid increasingly tough, profound shifts that will have to be made in the face of zero support from the Commonwealth, shifts that will fundamentally impact Penn State’s ability to fulfill its public mission. Over the coming weeks you will see Penn State’s leadership engaged in aggressive advocacy on your behalf and on behalf of our students, in partnership with Pennsylvania’s other state-related institutions of higher education. We believe it is unprecedented for a state not to fund its top public research universities, and in our advocacy we will continue to remind legislators of the vital role we play in education and advances that drive our economy and improve our society’s quality of life.

We also want to acknowledge the efforts of our students, who are organizing their own efforts to underscore the importance of appropriations to students and their families across Pennsylvania.

Through all of this, we want to assure you that our decisions will be made in consultation with many of you across the University, and always with your best interests, and those of our students, at heart. You are at the core of this institution, and you are the reason why Penn State continues to reach new heights as one of the very best universities anywhere in the world.

We will communicate openly and frequently with all of you as this process continues, and it remains our expectation that our elected leaders will reach a compromise on a budget deal. We are encouraged that both parties in Harrisburg have agreed in their negotiations to a 5 percent increase for Penn State in 2015-16, and that Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal for 2016-17 suggests another 5 percent increase. It is our hope that this strengthened support for Pennsylvania’s students and their families will come to fruition.

Thank you for your contributions to Penn State. The University’s leadership will continue to do everything possible to give you the resources to make a positive difference in the hundreds of thousands of lives you affect every year.


Nicholas P. Jones
Executive vice president and provost, Penn State

David J. Gray
Senior vice president for finance and business, Penn State

Last Updated February 22, 2016