Penn State Loophole Closed, Taxpayers Get Accountability

Penn State LoopholeMore accountability is in the works for Pennsylvania universities. Earlier this week, the House State Government Committee considered legislation requiring Pennsylvania’s four state-related universities to comply with the Right-to-Know Law. HB 61 would fully subject Penn State University, the University of Pittsburgh, Temple University and Lincoln University to the open records law.

If the bill passes, these four universities would have to report much more than salaries for the 25 highest paid employees and a 990 tax form.

State-related universities receive substantial state funding but are not state-owned, as are the 14 schools in the State System of Higher Education. These 14 state schools, which received $412 million in taxpayer dollars this year, are already subject to the Right-to-Know Law.

State-related schools received $514 million in state taxpayer funds last year, yet they are fighting the push for transparency, arguing it would hurt morale among campus employees, hamper donor relations and compromise research data. Plus, they say, the majority of their funding comes from private sources. Taxpayers, however, deserve to see how every dollar is spent, especially the more than $500 million spent on state-related schools as tuition rises year-after-year.

Proponents for the law argue the four schools should play by the same rules has all state and local government agencies or become wholly private institutions. Currently, these schools receive between 5 percent and 15 percent of their annual budgets from the state.

Transparency to those footing the bill seems a small price to pay if Penn State, Pitt, Temple, and Lincoln University want to continue receiving millions in taxpayer. If these schools want to keep their spending habits to private we know of at least one Pennsylvania college that doesn’t take one penny of federal or state funding, and it’s doing just fine.