Piccola Unveils Higher Education Proposal

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Focusing on Affordability, Accountability, & Choice in Education

HARRISBURG – In response to the Governor’s recent unveiling of his proposed Tuition Relief Act, Senator Jeffrey E. Piccola (R-15), Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, announced his plans today for the "Affordability, Accountability, and Choice in Higher Education Act." This is a new proposal that promises to provide financial assistance to 25,000 additional students attending a college or university of their choice in Pennsylvania, along with increasing funding for community colleges, placing caps on tuition increases, and instilling other accountability measurements. Piccola’s plan will be accomplished without the expansion of gambling as a revenue source.

Under Piccola’s plan, an additional $145 million dollars would be appropriated to the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency’s (PHEAA) State Grant, which helps students through an existing needs-based program. As a result, students would be able to use grants at the college or university of their choice and not be limited to the State System of Higher Education (SSHE) or community colleges, which the Governor’s proposal would do.

"I believe that we already have a vibrant network of colleges and universities throughout our Commonwealth. Our marketplace works, therefore, students and their families should have choice and not be pigeonholed like Rendell’s plan," Piccola said.

Piccola’s proposal would also provide a generous increase for the state’s community colleges, which are the front line for access to higher education in recessionary times. His plan would be funded through cuts in spending and the elimination of the Governor’s film tax credits and other film industry exemptions.

In an effort to control tuition, Piccola’s plan would ensure all Pennsylvania colleges and universities receiving state funding would be prohibited from increasing their tuition beyond the Consumer Price Index. "Currently no state plan exists that would address the exorbitant increases in tuition for higher education. Unlike the Governor’s proposal, my plan requires our higher education institutions to get their costs under control as all working Pennsylvania families must do," added Piccola.

In addition to providing tuition relief for students and their families by holding the line on tuition increases and providing choice and assistance for thousands more of the Commonwealth’s students, Piccola’s proposal focuses on establishing accountability on the student. PHEAA grant recipients would be required to maintain at least a "C" average – or an equivalent measure – to remain eligible and will be required to graduate within four years. "This would serve as an incentive to our higher education institutions to ensure they provide appropriate academic advising and course offerings that allow students to graduate on time," said Piccola.

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