Pennsylvania Needs to Stop Shortchanging Its Future and Invest Smartly in Higher Education

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Oct 27, 2014 01:29 pm | Stephen Herzenberg

While there’s been a lot of focus recently on K-12 school funding cuts in Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania higher education has experienced even larger state funding cuts in percentage terms. Pennsylvania’s starting point for investing in higher education, moreover, was already near the bottom.

The list of poor rankings that reflect Pennsylvania’s underinvestment in higher education is somewhat mind blowing.

  • For example, Pennsylvania is 48th for investment in higher education per capita.
  • Pennsylvania has seen the fifth largest decrease in higher education funding since 2010-11, including a $90 million cut – 18% — from funding for the state’s cheapest four-year college option, the state-owned Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) universities.
  • Pennsylvania has the third-highest tuition and fees at public four-year colleges; we have the seventh-highest tuitiion for our community colleges.
  • We have the third-highest student debt among graduates from four-year colleges. While that ranking for average debt includes graduates of private and state-related schools (Pitt, Penn State, Temple, and Lincoln), the average debt of graduates from state-owned PASSHE universities is almost as high — right around $30,000.
  • Pennsylvania is 41st for the share of adults (25 to 64 years of age) that have more than a high-school education. That’s up from 45th or 46th a decade or so ago but we’ve been stuck around 41st since 2010.
  • Pennsylvania’s rural regions suffer the most from the state’s underinvestment in higher education, with 26 counties having little or no access to community college. One positive sign: Senator Joe Scarnati (R-25), the president pro tem of the Senate, has been a leader in addressing this issue, which could open the door to bipartisan progress in the future.
  • Pennsylvania’s low spending is short-sighted because investment in higher education pays off handsomely for states and for individuals.
  • According to the Milken Institute, each one year of additional average education beyond high school is associated with a more than 17% increase in both GDP per capita and wages.
  • College-educated workers earn hourly wages more than three-quarters higher than workers with only a high-school degree and also have an unemployment rate half or less of the unemployment rate of less-educated groups.

In sum, when we shortchange investment in higher education, we shortchange ourselves.

Interestingly, the top four states for investment in higher education are Wyoming, North Dakota, Alaska, and New Mexico. Four resource-rich states that use some of their mineral wealth to invest in higher education. Perhaps there’s a lesson there.

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National Survey Finds Bipartisan Majority Look to Government to Lead Much-Needed Fight Against Hunger

From the Food Research and Action Center (

Americans seeing and experiencing hunger

Jen Adach, FRAC, 202-986-2200 or

Gary Mickelson, Tyson Foods, Inc., 479-290-6111 or

Washington, D.C. – October 28, 2014 – A new survey (pdf) finds that Americans believe that hunger is a serious problem in the U.S. and that government, more than individuals or communities, must play a key role in helping solve it. The survey, commissioned by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) and Tyson Foods, Inc. (NYSE: TSN), found that 45 percent of Americans say that hunger in the U.S. is a “serious problem.”  Just 15 percent do not believe hunger is a problem at all in the United States today.

According to the survey, two out of five Americans have either experienced hunger in the past year or personally know someone who has – that includes nearly half of people aged 18 to 34. Nearly three in 10 Americans (and half of millennials) say that either they or a member of their immediate family have used government food assistance programs in the past couple of years. That includes at least 25 percent of nearly every major demographic subgroup. While the survey showed widespread awareness of hunger as a regional and national challenge, still only 24 percent of respondents believed it was a problem in their own communities.

Women are more attuned to the issue of hunger and the need to address it. Fifty-two percent of women say hunger in the U.S. is a serious problem while 36 percent of men say the same. Sixty-three percent of women, compared to 49 percent of men, believe that hunger has worsened since the recession.  This cuts across party lines with 56 percent of Republicans, 54 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of Independents believing hunger today is more a problem than before the economic recession began in 2008.

The gender gap narrows when people are asked about solutions: Fifty-one percent of women and 45 percent of men say that Congress needs to do more to address the problem. Only 18 percent overall think that fewer resources should be allocated on hunger relief programs.

“The vast majority of Americans believe that hunger is a major problem for the country, and they are looking to government to lead and develop solutions,” said Jim Weill, FRAC President. “For Congress, the answer is clear. Americans want to see investments in food assistance programs that help struggling families get the food they need.”

The belief that the government needs to display leadership in the fight against hunger crossed party lines.

“Tyson Foods has been working for many years to help alleviate hunger in America by donating millions of pounds of products to local food banks and by supporting federal policies such as the National School Lunch Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), said Annetta Young, director of corporate social responsibility for Tyson Foods. “The data from this survey tells us that Americans believe it’s a serious problem and they expect government, faith-based communities, and non-profit entities to work together to address it.”

Many also acknowledge that hunger adversely impacts people in a number of ways, with more than two-thirds believing that each of the following situations happen often in America today: that children are eating less nutritious and cheap food so their parents can scrape together money to pay the rent, that seniors are choosing whether to pay for prescriptions or food, that families could go a week without fresh produce, and that many children are going hungry in the summer when school is out.

When looking specifically at the child nutrition programs – especially school meals and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program – people believe that they are leading to better outcomes for children by helping them learn and improving their overall health and well-being. By more than three to one, Americans believe that spending on such programs should increase (50 percent) rather than decrease (15 percent).

This bipartisan survey was conducted by Hart Research Associates, a Democratic firm, and Chesapeake Beach Consulting, a Republican firm, to gauge Americans’ attitudes and perceptions of hunger, and follows up on research (pdf) the two organizations commissioned in 2011.  A total of 1,558 adults across the United States age 18 and over were interviewed online from July 29 through August 6, 2014. More findings on the survey can be found by visiting:

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Sign Petition Supporting EPA Standards for Cutting Carbon Pollution

From Interfaith Power and Light (

This spring, the Environmental Protection Agency announced first-ever standards to cut carbon pollution from power plants by 30%. The EPA opened up the rules for public comment, and they’ve extended the deadline. This is a crucial opportunity for us to make sure we all add our names to show strong support for action on global warming.

If people of faith and others who care about protecting Creation don’t speak up in support of the EPA’s new standards, Big Coal’s big money will drown us out. Big Coal will leverage its influence in Washington to block the regulations so they can continue spewing pollution into our air at a catastrophic rate: the latest scientific reports warn that Greenland could melt, sea levels could rise more than 11 inches, and persistent flooding could devastate major U.S. cities by 2045.

That’s why IPL is partnering with Groundswell, a powerful online community rallying people of faith as a force for good. Together, we can all speak out in support of the EPA’s new, common sense carbon standards before it’s too late.

We need you to join us today: Sign your name to tell the EPA you support these crucial carbon standards.

Go to to add your name today and join IPL and Groundswell in calling on the EPA to pass common sense carbon standards that will significantly reduce carbon emissions and ensure a brighter future.

We have to protect the planet we’ve been blessed with – and right now, we have an incredible opportunity to do that. It’s our moral responsibility to seize this moment, here and now. Please, will you sign your name and join IPL, Groundswell, and thousands of people of faith supporting the EPA’s new carbon standards for a brighter future for generations to come?

Click here to sign your name in support of EPA action to clean up power plants right now, and join IPL and Groundswell in building a powerful movement to protect God’s creation for future generations.

Thank you for taking this opportunity to join us in and adding your voice as a champion of moral action on climate change.

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Alliance for Climate Education Offers High School Assembly Programs on Climate Education

In 2009, 4C presented the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) — a non-profit organization that conducts climate education assembly programs in high schools across the country — with its Climate Change Communicator of the Year Award.

Subsequently, 4C, Yale and Stanford researchers collaborated with ACE to evaluate the effectiveness of its assembly program. The exciting results of that evaluation were published this week in Climatic Change.

In short, students who participated in ACE assembly programs became more knowledgeable about and engaged in the issue of climate change, and they changed their communication and conservation behavior in a number of important ways.

We encourage you to learn more about ACE ( and to download the free article that details its evaluation results:

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Investment in Higher Education for Growth & Opportunity

From Keystone Research Center (

Report includes data on education levels by region & funding cuts at each state system school

Pennsylvania’s reduced funding of higher education in recent years has led to steep tuition hikes at its public four-year colleges, hefty average student debt and a small share of residents with education beyond high school compared to other states, a new report released today by the Keystone Research Center and the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center found. To reverse these trends, Pennsylvania should restore $90 million in cuts to state-owned universities and $20 million to community colleges, and freeze their tuitions for four years, A Must-Have for Pennsylvania Part II: Investment in Higher Education for Growth and Opportunity recommends.

“Investment in higher education has a big payoff for states and their residents,” report co-author Stephen Herzenberg, an economist and executive director of the KRC, noted. “When we shortchange higher education, we shortchange ourselves.”

Sens. Vince Hughes, D-Philadelphia, and Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, joined Herzenberg in a conference call with media on the report’s findings. “Clearly, we need to invest more dollars into higher education. Every dollar we spend provides an economic and academic return that cannot be overstated. It is my hope that the future will bring greater commitment to this issue,” Hughes said.

Costa said, “This report demonstrates that the Corbett Administration has failed to prioritize higher education funding.  This lack of attention and focus has resulted in higher tuition bills for students and their families, and unease throughout the whole education community.  We need to reverse course and invest in our students and higher education system.  It makes economic and moral sense.”

Rep. David Millard, R-Columbia, said in a written statement that “while there are many needs in our commonwealth, public education and higher education represent our future.  Funding can be challenging in stressful economic environments.  I stand ready to work together to meet the challenge of providing a quality and affordable education.”

The report’s analysis of Pennsylvania’s funding of its 14 public community colleges and 14 State System of Higher Education universities showed that their tuition and fees are the third-highest at public four-year colleges of all states. Their cost is more than 50% above the national average. The study focuses on these schools because they are the most affordable and accessible to middle- and low-income Pennsylvania families. The report includes state-related higher education institutions (Pennsylvania State University, University of Pittsburgh, Temple University and Lincoln University) in many comparisons with other states.

Pennsylvania also has the third highest average student debt ($31,675) among graduates of four-year colleges. Inadequate funding for higher education perpetuates Pennsylvania’s low ranking for share of adults, ages 25-64, with more than a high school education. The state ranked 41st on this measure in 2013. The report also gives an overview of insights from economic research about the powerful link between education levels, economic growth for regions, and economic opportunity for individuals, including higher wages. Among the new KRC/PBPC report’s main findings:

  • Since 2010-11, Pennsylvania has cut higher education funding 11.8%, the fifth-largest reduction among states.
  • In 2011-12, Pennsylvania slashed funding for state-owned universities by $90 million, and those cuts have remained in place since.
  • Pennsylvania ranks 48th among states for funding of public higher education per capita.
  • Due to funding reductions since 2010-11, tuition at state-owned universities has increased by 18%, and more than 95 programs have been cut or placed under a moratorium. More than 900 positions at state-owned schools have been eliminated or remain unfilled.
  • In the 1980s, state support accounted for two-thirds of the budgets of Pennsylvania’s four-year public universities. Today, state support has fallen to 25% of those universities’ budgets, which places a greater financial burden on students and their families.
  • Pennsylvania’s college-educated workers earn hourly wages more than three-quarters higher than workers with a high school degree.
  • The unemployment rate of college-educated workers in Pennsylvania is roughly half that of workers with lower levels of education. The state’s college-educated unemployment rate remained under 5% during the Great Recession and has since fallen to 3.6%.

According to Harvard economist Larry Katz, a leading expert on education and growth: “You can make the case for almost all of economic growth being the direct (25%) and indirect (through R&D and technology adoption) result of increased education.” Herzenberg added: “Higher education is a smart investment in our future.”

The Keystone Research Center is an independent, nonpartisan research organization that promotes a more prosperous and equitable Pennsylvania and U.S. economy. Learn more at The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center is a non-partisan research project of the KRC that provides independent, credible analysis on state tax, budget and related policy matters, with attention to the impact of current or proposed policies on working families. Learn more at

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Corbett Approves Bills on Stream Buffers and Carbon Plan

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OCTOBER 23, 2014


Governor Corbett signed a pair of bills dealing with two hot-button environmental issues. The first would eliminate stream buffer requirements for the state’s cleanest waterways. The second measure gives legislators a role in crafting a federally-mandated carbon reduction plan–a top priority for the state’s coal industry.

The stream bill removes the 150 feet buffer requirement between new developments and Pennsylvania’s cleanest streams. It was supported by the Pennsylvania Builder’s Association. The law only applies projects that need stormwater discharge permits and are adjacent to the state’s “high quality” or “exceptional value” streams – a small percentage of waterways. Supporters have said the buffers amounted to eminent domain that restricted landowners. Environmental groups criticized the measure as a step backwards.

A separate bill approved by Corbett requires legislative approval of a federally-mandated carbon pollution plan. Under proposed rules recently put forth by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, Pennsylvania will have to cut its carbon emissions by 32 percent over the next 15 years. The new climate policy will mean major changes for the state’s energy industries.

The new law gives the state House and Senate 20 days to consider the carbon plan crafted by the state Department of Environmental Protection. Legislators can either approve it or ask for changes. If neither chamber votes on a final plan in time, it will be automatically approved and submitted to the federal government.

The coal industry lobbied heavily in favor of the measure, arguing the carbon plan will significantly impact its business. A coalition of environmental groups opposed it saying that it will create an extra bureaucratic hurdle for cutting carbon pollution.

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WIC and SNAP Celebrate Big Anniversaries

WIC 40 Years: “’As we commemorate 40 years of accomplishments, WIC’s impact can be seen not only through improved child health, but in healthcare cost savings and economic support for local merchants through WIC participant purchases,’ said Agriculture Under Secretary Kevin Concannon. ‘In fact, WIC participation actually saves money for taxpayers. Studies on WIC participation among low-income Medicaid recipients show that every dollar spent on prenatal WIC participation saves $1.77 to $3.13 within the first 60 days after birth.’ Since the first WIC site opened in Pineville, Ky., in 1974, the program has improved the health and lives of millions of children, providing nutritious supplemental foods and instilling healthy behaviors that children can carry with them for a lifetime.” See USDA FNS Press Release, 10/22/14.

SNAP 50 Years: FNS official Jessica Shahin takes a look at SNAP’s 50 year milestone in this blog post.

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Witness in Common: An Exploration of Full Communion Agreements—November 10, Camp Hill

WHEN:  Monday, November 10, 10:00 a.m.-3:30 p.m. (registration begins at 9:30 a.m.)

WHERE: Trinity Lutheran Church, 2000 Chestnut Street, Camp Hill, PA 17011

Join us on Monday, November 10, at Trinity Lutheran Church in Camp Hill for an exploration of full communion agreements and how they work through local partnerships, shared ministry, and ongoing dialogue. Through panel discussions, a plenary address, worship, and fellowship you will learn why these agreements are vitally important to the missional church in the 21st century.

The plenary speaker is the Very Rev. Dr. Tom Ferguson, Former Ecumenical Officer, The Episcopal Church, and current academic dean at Bexley Seabury Seminary Federation. Bishop James Dunlop will serve as presiding minister and Bishop Peggy Johnson, Eastern Pennsylvania Conference, United Methodist Conference, will preach. Panel discussions will address the agreements from historical, judicatory, and congregational perspectives.

This event is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Council of Churches Commission on Unity & Relationships and hosted by Trinity, Camp Hill. Click here for a brochure with registration information and here to visit the Pennsylvania Council of Churches website.

The event begins at 9:30 a.m. and will conclude with worship and Eucharist beginning at 2:45 p.m. The registration of $10 includes lunch. Register online here.

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National Religious Campaign Against Torture Applauds Pope Francis’ Comments on Prisons

From the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (

WASHINGTON — Following today’s comments by Pope Francis regarding the treatment of prisoners around the world, Rev. Ron Stief, executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture – a coalition comprised of more than 300 religious organizations working to end torture in United States prisons – released the following statement:

“I applaud the comments of Pope Francis naming the widespread use of isolation in maximum security detention as a ‘form of torture.’  The Pope’s words call the United States, a global outlier in its widespread use of solitary confinement,  to account. His words echo the call U.S. faith leaders have made for decades, demanding an end to the U.S. prison system’s use of solitary confinement.  The psychological and physical suffering of the more than 80,000 incarcerated adults and youth who daily endure the torture of isolation in the U.S. must now end, according to Pope Francis, for human dignity must limit such ‘grave attacks against the dignity and the integrity of the human person.’”

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How Does Your County Compare to Other PA Counties on Measures of Children’s Well-Being?

From Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (

Do you know how your county compares to other Pennsylvania counties when it comes to child poverty, health insurance coverage, educational opportunities and other important measures of children’s well-being?State of the Child PA

You can find those answers quickly and easily with Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children’s newly updated “State of the Child” profiles ( For each of the commonwealth’s 67 counties, you can find:

  • Child population and poverty statistics;
  • Information on how many children are uninsured, and how many benefit from coverage through Medicaid or Pennsylvania’s Children’s Health Insurance Program;
  • Data on how many children benefit from subsidized child care and publicly funded pre-kindergarten programs;
  • The number of children in foster care or receiving other child welfare services; and
  • Academic performance data for school districts, charter schools and cyber charter schools.

Whether you’re a parent, policymaker, journalist, activist, children’s advocate or just someone who likes to stay in the know, our “State of the Child” profiles can help you get timely, reliable information on how Pennsylvania’s nearly 2.8 million kids are doing.

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