Tuesday, May 26, 2009

If You Feed the Watchdog, Will It Keep Quiet?

Every year since 1996 the Pennsylvania General Assembly has issued financial reports on the state-related universities called Stairs Reports (Take a look over to your right). For even longer, the General Assembly has also issued reports on credit hours, teaching loads, etc... for both the state-owned and state-related universities. These are called Snyder Reports. This year, for the first time,  the Pennsylvania Department of Education has posted  on their Web site, without any fanfare, the raw data submitted by the state-related universities to the General Assembly which form the basis of these reports.

As you might imagine there is substantially more information in the raw data. For example, one important difference is that the  the raw data  lists the names of all entities which have received  contracts for goods and service in excess of $1000, while the Stairs Reports only provides the names of those that have received contracts in excess of $750,000.The raw data, unlike the Stairs Reports,  also has the budget category for the contract.

This raw data is a potential goldmine.

As a test, I decided to look at how much money the Centre Daily Times was paid by Penn State in 2007-2008. The results are shown in the embedded table.
Payment to Centre Daily Times by Penn State 2007-2008

The total amount, $346,627, is a very large amount, but its not large enough to make the cutoff for inclusion in the Stairs Report. Its size does raise the question of whether, or to what extent, these payment have compromised the Centre Daily Times role as a watchdog over Penn State. This question is particularly of interest now that the CDT is experiencing financial difficulties.

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