Wednesday, May, 26, 2010

SVP highlights importance of Commonwealth support

Temple University became a state-related university in 1965, formalizing Temple's partnership with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and providing Temple with millions of dollars in Commonwealth support each year. Few are more aware of the importance of this relationship than Ken Lawrence Jr., senior vice president for Government, Community and Public Affairs, who oversees Temple's government relations operations. The Temple Times sat down with Lawrence to discuss this relationship and update the Temple community on the status of this year's Commonwealth funding.

Temple Times: What does it mean to be a state-related university?

Ken Lawrence: Unlike most colleges and universities, Temple University is not a private school, and is not owned or operated wholly by a government, but we are connected to the Commonwealth through substantial support. Since becoming a state-related university, Pennsylvania has provided significant support to Temple’s endeavors, and Pennsylvania residents have been charged a reduced tuition rate.

Today, the Commonwealth’s support accounts for roughly 20 percent of the university’s budget, making Pennsylvania Temple’s largest single donor. These funds are utilized to keep tuition costs low, support our research programs and help develop campus facilities from a capital allocation.

In order to receive this funding, a member of the legislature submits a bill authorizing Temple’s funding through what is called a non-preferred appropriation. This bill must receive support from a two-thirds majority of each house in the legislature and be signed by the governor.

The University of Pittsburgh, the Pennsylvania State University and Lincoln University are also state-related schools.

TT: What is the status of this year’s funding?

KL: Temple’s funding is tied to the budget for the Commonwealth because the Pennsylvania Constitution bars the state from distributing any funds until a budget has been passed. The Constitution also requires the state to have a budget in place by the end of June each year. In order to meet this deadline, the legislature and Gov. Rendell have been working on the budget since the beginning of the year. Gov. Rendell submitted a funding proposal that would provide Temple $172 million. His proposal was essentially adopted by the state House of Representatives, which passed Temple’s appropriation in late March along with the Commonwealth’s budget.

Since then, the state Senate has been considering the budget passed by the House, and working to craft a balanced budget that takes recent revenue shortfalls into account. Funding for Temple and other state-related schools has received broad bipartisan support from the legislature, and we remain hopeful that a balanced budget will be passed by the end of the fiscal year.

TT: What does the Office of Government Relations do to ensure Temple’s funding?

KL: As one of this country’s great urban universities, Temple plays a unique role in Pennsylvania, and it is our job to ensure that leaders across the Commonwealth are aware of our contributions and impact. Temple is a vital economic engine in Southeastern Pennsylvania, and we make sure this is well known to members of the legislature from across the Commonwealth. We do this through events, such as our annual Undergraduate Research Day in Harrisburg, and by educating legislators across Pennsylvania.

We make the case to leaders across the Commonwealth that supporting Temple is a good investment for both our students and Pennsylvania. By highlighting the innovative research conducted by our students and faculty, the economic impact of the learning that takes place in our classrooms and the social impact Temple has across Pennsylvania, we demonstrate the massive return Pennsylvanians receive from the state’s investment in the university. Everyone from Dr. Hart to a freshman student is a representative of Temple and can serve as an advocate.

TT: How can members of the Temple community assist?

KL: Students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and friends of the university have been crucial when we face obstacles related to our Commonwealth appropriation. Few can forget the challenges we faced last year, and the overwhelming response from members of the Temple community. The response showed everyone that the Temple community is a large and vocal presence in Pennsylvania. We are grateful to all those who emailed, wrote, called and visited their legislators in support of our university. So far this year, our funding has moved smoothly, and we have not had to call on our advocates for support. As the budget process continues, we will keep the Temple community up-to-date and let Temple Owls across the Commonwealth know if we need their voices.

For information about the Office of Government Relations activities, and updates about the Commonwealth appropriation, follow TUGovtAffairs on Twitter.

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