A week or so ago, I blogged on here about the proposed budget Gov. Tom Corbett presented to the General Assembly in Harrisburg. Like last year’s budget, his new budget proposes deep cuts to education, including a 20 percent cut to state universities and a 28-30 percent cut to state-sponsored schools, which include Penn State, Temple, and the University of Pittsburgh. If this passes as is, this will surely lead to tuition hikes, larger class sizes, and possibly fewer faculty members. The other day, the Association of Writers and Writers Programs (AWP) put out a news blurb that Penn State is cutting its M.FA. program, due to the budget cuts.
According to the blurb, “All applicants hoping to start their MFA at Penn State in the Fall of 2012 received a notice that, since funding had been cut, there would be no acceptances mailed out. Current students will be able to finish their degree with the same funding they were promised and no faculty from the English department will be laid off.” The blurb goes on to mention that in order to keep venues open for creative writing at PSU, the English Department is considering developing a new program that combines a bachelor’s and master’s degree in creative writing. The program should take students five years to complete.
The fact PSU had to chop a whole program is evidence of the dire impact deep budget cuts have on education and on specific schools. What’s a real shame is that nationally, the economy is improving. The jobless rate fell to 8.3 percent last month. Jobless claims are at a four-year low, according to reports out this week. And yet, Pennsylvania is falling behind, cutting social programs and funding to affordable schools. Support for education is absolutely necessary for PA to compete with other states and keep students within the state after they graduate. The governor’s budget has yet to come up for a vote in the state legislature, but he does have GOP majorities in the House and Senate. Even if they tweak the budget, as they did last year to offset some of the deep cuts, some of the damage has already been done, as witnessed by PSU deciding to cut its M.F.A. program.