Rep. Eric Nelson (R-Westmoreland) will soon introduce legislation to create the Pennsylvania College Voucher Program, which would provide grants directly to students interested in technical schools, community colleges, schools within the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) system, private colleges and major universities. The plan would redirect over $580 million taxpayer dollars exclusively allocated to the University of Pittsburgh, Temple University and Penn State University.
“The time has come to re-evaluate how we fund post-secondary education; our families should come first,” Nelson said. “Shifting state funds directly to students, rather than select schools, expands opportunities for families and creates a broader range of higher learning options.
“Our universities do a great job educating students. Unfortunately, many young people accrue massive debt and are forced to leave the state to find work,” Nelson explained. “It makes little sense to continue using Pennsylvania taxpayer funds to build a workforce for other states while Pennsylvania’s industry and construction employers offer thriving wages and benefits but struggle to hire qualified employees.”
Approximately $581 million is currently allocated directly to three universities commonly referred to as “non-preferred” because their funding must be passed in separate pieces of legislation. The funds are directed for the purpose of discounting tuition for Pennsylvania residents; however, universities do not submit an annual report to the Legislature as to how that money is spent.
“During the recent budget cycle, I and a number of my colleagues expressed concerns in sending dollars directly to the non-preferred universities. Often, the policies, activities and research at these institutions do not reflect the ideals and values of the taxpayers who fund them,” Nelson said. “By expanding Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) programs, we can directly empower students to choose where, and how, they invest in higher education.”
This legislation proposes to re-direct funds from the three major non-preferred universities to PHEAA to expand its existing programs and make money available for students to use at the school that best meets their needs. Because the proposal redirects the existing allocation, there is no additional cost to taxpayers.
The General Assembly allocated $1.86 billion to secondary education this year. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives plans a series of public hearings to evaluate this funding and better understand the benefits and consequences of any potential change. The first of those is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 4, at 9 a.m. in the House Majority Caucus Room and will be a joint hearing with the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and the House Education Subcommittee on Higher Education.
The 57th Legislative District includes the following Westmoreland County communities: the city of Greensburg; the townships of Hempfield and Salem; and the boroughs of Delmont, Hunker, New Stanton, South Greensburg, Southwest Greensburg and Youngwood.
Representative Eric Nelson
57th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Jordan Frei