HARRISBURG - The prospect of unprecedented midterm tuition hikes at four state-related universities ended late tonight when the House voted to approve funding after a months-long delay.
The votes on four separate bills came the same day as the heads of the universities criticized Gov. Rendell and House Democratic leadership for holding them "hostage."
The heads of Pennsylvania State, Temple, and Lincoln Universities and the University of Pittsburgh said in a letter today that the prolonged wait for the roughly $700 million state subsidy included as part of October's state budget agreement was harming their institutions.
The college funding was caught up in the debate over table games at slots parlors. House Democratic leaders said they would not vote on the college appropriations bills until table gambling was approved because the funding was needed to help balance the budget.
The colleges got their money late tonight after table games legislation was given preliminary approval in the House.
The delay cost universities millions in revenue and investment income, and threatened their ability to borrowing funds to finance development projects.
The college leaders also said the budget delay would have jeopardized nearly $2 billion in federal stimulus money slated for Pennsylvania higher education.
House Democrats had said they could not act on the college funding until the General Assembly approved the gambling bill, because dwindling state coffers needed the gambling revenue to fund the schools.
A spokesman for Temple said that without the vital $173 million in state aid by Jan. 1, a midterm tuition increase would have been unavoidable.
"We're happy with overwhelming support of the House," said Temple spokesman Kenneth Lawrence, who was in the House chamber of the Capitol for the vote. "It allows us to keep our historically low 2.9 percent tuition increase and give a dramatic increase in financial aid for our students."
In addition to the Temple funding, the legislation approves $334 million to Pennsylvania State University, $168 million to the University of Pittsburgh, and $14 million to Lincoln University.