Legislators in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives are debating a rebooted funding model for higher education, which could potentially harm public historically Black institutions in the state.
Throughout the nearly three-hour hearing, members of House Appropriations and Education subcommittees posed questions that focused on changing from a long-standing model that distributes commonwealth funds fairly even-handedly across institutions.
Specifically, the lawmakers are looking at models that direct more funding to students in the form of grants or possibly a model that awards money based on university performance on certain indicators such as graduation and retention rates.
Any funding model that punishes the unique mission of HBCUs — enrolling and graduating students from low-income households and underserved communities — is a funding model that should be dead on arrival. Instead, it’s being debated with very little consideration for how Cheyney and Lincoln will fare in the effort to prop up the state’s larger public-affiliated campuses at the expense of state-supported schools.
Larger state-affiliated schools in the state have endorsed the discussions in part but warn against the competitive advantage it could create for border state schools working hard to recruit students out of the commonwealth.
Pennsylvania continues to be weird about Lincoln University of Pennsylvania and Cheyney University. Solutions like merging the two institutions or combining embattled Cheyney with nearby and historically white West Chester University have been publicly offered and have fallen through. Top lawmakers in the state interfered and stopped a presidential dismissal, and it remains unclear why the president was being fired in the first place and why the governor and the attorney general cared so much.
These discussions are at the committee level and could just be another useless shot into the dark. But all shots fired in and around the direction of HBCUs deserve alarms and attention of the highest levels of interest.