Penn State president hopeful about state funding

By Mark Scolforo

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Oct. 24 2011 1:29 p.m. MDT

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Penn State president Graham Spanier said Monday he's optimistic the school will not see a repeat of the nearly 19 percent state funding cut the university endured in the current state budget.

"We have the impression we should not anticipate a proposal for a significant cut like we saw this year," Spanier said at a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon at which he discussed a range of issues facing the school. He said the school also does not expect an increase in state aid when the 2012-13 budget passes next summer.

Spanier said the university hasn't had "formal" discussions with Gov. Tom Corbett's office, but there are signs the school should not expect a repeat of the 2011-12 budget, which cut about $220 million from Penn State and the 17 other state-owned or state-related universities. A Corbett spokeswoman offered no immediate comment.

Penn State received $334 million from the state in 2010-11, including $15.8 million in federal stimulus money. For the current year, the total figure was $272.4 million, including a $44.7 million transfer to the agricultural college, according to the state budget office.

Asked how long he planned to remain at Penn State, where he has been president since 1995, Spanier said he "would be happy to continue in that position for a few more years," if that is the desire of the board of trustees.

He shot down the suggestion he might run for political office after his tenure ends in State College.

"I have really all the political intrigue I need in my current position," Spanier said.

Spanier said one of Penn State's biggest current challenges is maintaining its function as a land-grant institution despite seeing its College of Agricultural Science shed about 120 positions during the past year through attrition and layoffs. The cooperative extension system and agricultural research are a financial challenge to maintain, Spanier said.

He said the school's $804 million in total research spending last year places it among the nation's elite universities.

"Penn State is a wise investment that has the potential to transform the economic landscape," he said.

A year ago, Spanier was named chairman of the 12-member presidential oversight committee of the Bowl Championship Series, the college football post-season organization. Spanier said the BCS is working "exceptionally well," pointing to attendance records and lucrative television contracts.

Responding to a different football question, Spanier said no decision has been made on an eventual successor to 84-year-old Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.

"I can assure you, when the time comes, we will hire a great football coach," he said.

Online: http://president.psu.edu/

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