Friday, January 16, 2009

Is There Enough Room in There for Both Feet?

I had thought that Tom Shakely's fifteen minutes of fame had lapsed. He used to be a go to guy for local reporters looking for a juicy quote, but he seemed to fade into well deserved obscurity this year. Then on Wednesday he and UPUA president Gavin Keiran, who I though would have known better, made a triumphant return to the pages of the Collegian riding a harebrained scheme. They want the Commonwealth to re-institute the Tuition Challenge Grant program (1989-1996) which rewarded Penn State with increased appropriations in exchange for holding the line on tuition. That's right, Rendell just announced a projected $1.9 billion dollar budget shortfall for this fiscal year, he's already told Penn State that he want about $21 million back at the end of the fiscal year, the economy shows no signs of improvement, but Tom wants the Governor to fork over more money next year.

Where exactly is this money supposed to come from? Well, Tom, never one to let information get in the way of an indignant response, has a ready answer,"The bottom line is that the government has proved it doesn't have a problem with deficit spending." Tom, a political science major, doesn't seem to realize that unlike the Federal government Pennsylvania has to balance its budget. Tom's partner in this venture, the usually level headed Keirans, must have realized that Tom's foot was once more in his mouth. Yesterday he stepped up to defend their proposal and show the world that unlike Tom he didn't sleep through his high school civics class.
Some may dismiss this as foolish because of the economic downturn that we are in, as well as the state of Pennsylvania being obligated by its constitution to have a balanced budget.
Keirans wasn't the only who wanted to prove that they were better educated than the Shake. Council of Commonwealth Student Governments President George Khoury also want to make sure that the world knew that he knew that Pennsylvania had to balance the budget. He was interviewed by the Collegan this morning concerning his efforts to meet with lawmakers to discuss Penn State's appropriation.
"With a $21.2 million rescission, it is not realistic to freeze tuition," Khoury said. "That's impossible because the state needs to balance the budget."
And it doesn't sound like Khoury thinks much of the Challenge Grant idea either. To make the Shake's day even worse, one last group wanted to tell you that they knew more than him. The Collegian editorial board weighed in this morning. They don't like the Tuition Grant proposal either and they know all about the need to balance the budget.

The first is a practical one. Simply: The state cannot afford it.

Currently, Pennsylvania is projecting a deficit of $1.4 billion for the fiscal year and is taking measures to cut costs wherever it can. At best, the state government is operating in a zero-sum game, and whatever incentives Penn State would be rewarded with under this program would likely be directly negated by a decrease in yearly appropriations.

So how did Tom take all the rain on his parade? If you guessed with an indignant response you'd be correct.

Passing an updated version of the Tuition Challenge Grant may be unlikely, but no one else is proposing any other alternatives, Shakely said.

"Our times call for a new approach," Shakely said. "The tried-and-failed approach of simply meeting and asking for money, I don't think is going to work."

Shorter Tom: No one is proposing any good ideas. We thought we'd propose a bad one.

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