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Gov. Tom Wolf: Strike 'will have far-reaching effects for years to come'

Faculty members at 14 state-owned universities on picket line

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania's governor is not mincing words when it comes to a strike that's impacting some 100,000 students at the 14 state-owned universities.

Gov. Tom Wolf released the following statement after talks between the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) and the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) broke down, prompting the universities' faculty members to walk off the job and onto the picket line Wednesday morning:

"I am extremely disappointed in the failure of PASSHE and APSCUF to reach an agreement on a contract. The resulting strike is detrimental to the system and will have far-reaching effects for years to come.

"In just under two years I have increased funding to the state system by more than $30 million, a 7.5 percent increase over 2014-15, in order to begin restoring the harmful cuts made under the previous administration.

"The shortsightedness on both sides is counter to my efforts on behalf of the system and hurts the dedicated professors and university staff, and students and their families who are paying tuition to these universities.

"Everyone's top priority should be the students and their families who are counting on an agreement to ensure Pennsylvania continues to deliver on its promise to provide a world-class college education. I urge both sides to return to the table immediately and continue negotiations until an agreement is reached."

Marc Stier, the director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, made the following statement regarding the strike:

"This morning, faculty members at the fourteen universities that are part of Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) went on strike, having gone without a contract since June 30 of last year.

"While there are many factors that went into the decision of APSCUF faculty members to head to the picket lines, it is important for us to recognize that a long history of underfunding higher education in Pennsylvania is the main factor behind the strike.

"Pennsylvania has cut funding for higher education by 33.3% since 2008 when adjusted for inflation, a decrease of $2,234 per student. Pennsylvania ranks fourth from the bottom nationally in per capita spending on higher education: Spending on the PASSHE, community colleges, state-related institutions and private colleges was $250 in 2014, which is half the national average of $500 per capita.

"Those budget cuts have made it more difficult for our kids to go to college. ?In 1984, state funding paid for 62% of costs for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) and tuition paid for 38% of costs; by 2008, state funding accounted for only 38% of costs, with 62% coming from tuition and fees. Today, tuition and fees accounts for nearly 72% of PASSHE funding.

"Given the importance of PASSHE universities not just to students and faculty members but to all of us in Pennsylvania, it is important that the labor dispute be settled quickly and fairly and in a way that protects academic programs so vital to the state. But the long term prospects for higher education in our state won't be secure unless political leaders reverse the decline in funding for higher education and our future."

The 14 universities impacted by the strike including East Stroudsburg University in Monroe County, Kutztown University in Berks County, Millersville University in Lancaster County, and West Chester University in Chester County.

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