For eight months, Pennsylvania's four state-related universities haven't seen a dime in state funding. Collectively, Pennsylvania State University, Temple University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Lincoln University are out about $600 million.

They've borrowed money, put off hiring, scaled back travel, and postponed projects as they waited for Harrisburg to resolve the budget impasse.

They're done waiting.

"Our stand-alone appropriation bills have become the latest bargaining chip in a protracted political fight," the leaders of those institutions wrote in a letter that has begun appearing in some of the state's newspapers.

There are just two options, they wrote: "Choose to invest in our future, or continue to punish our students and employees while elected officials battle over unrelated issues."

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher at Pitt and the three presidents -- Eric Barron at Penn State, Neil D. Theobald at Temple, and Richard Green at Lincoln - said they aren't "assigning blame" for the holdup but want the matter resolved.

The missing money is perhaps most acute at Lincoln, where the $14 million allotment represents 25 percent of its budget.

"We are carefully monitoring our expenses," said spokeswoman Maureen Stokes. "You can't spend money you don't have."

The university is not filling vacancies, she noted. "So we're kind of doing without some vital staff," she said.

Lincoln will exhaust its cash reserves by the end of the spring semester if state funding does not come through, she said.

Temple has borrowed money to fill in some of the $140 million gap and must pay interest on those funds, Theobald said.

He urged state leaders not to use college students as leverage. "These kids have nothing to do with that," he said.

Penn State has stopped some travel and delayed some capital projects as it waits for its appropriation.

"But these efforts won't come close to solving our problem," said spokesman Lawrence Lokman.

The 14 universities in Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education, including West Chester and Cheyney, have received the same state funding as last year, but not the expected increase.

The universities are out $20.6 million, said Kenn Marshall, spokesman. Even with that, the system was projecting about a $10 million shortfall.

"The $20.6 million is important," he said, "and we'll continue to advocate for that."