The union representing faculty and coaches at Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities is concerned about the findings of a study that reviewed budgets at half of the system's schools.
The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) commissioned an accounting firm to look at the finances of seven of the system's 14 universities that said they would have to turn to layoffs because of budget issues.
The schools whose finances were reviewed are Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Kutztown, Mansfiled and Slippery Rock.
APSCUF spokesperson Lauren Gutshall said, "It showed that in all cases, the seven universities were doing two things. One, they were relatively financially solvent on their own but if you started to figure in their outside affiliated entities like foundations or their student housing associations or their other university properties, they were, the university, was assuming debt on behalf of the foundations."
"The foundations or affiliated entities would be taking on large amounts of debt and essentially the universities or the state system as a whole were on the hook to make good on those payments," she added.
"Among the universities, there are no common budgeting practices," Gutshall explained as the other finding of the study.
The spokesperson for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) said they have nothing to hide.
"For more than a decade actually, we have worked with affiliated entities to help finance the construction of our residence halls, it's a well accepted practice across the country," said PASSHE spokesperson Kenn Marshall. "It's really kind of difficult to understand what APSCUF is saying because, again, it's a well established practice and it's something, again, that we have been doing for more than a decade, has been written about, has been talked about, has been discussed and again we share all that information with our credit rating agencies."
Marshall went on to add, "There is no public money involved here, no tuition dollars . No state appropriation is used for the construction of our auxiliary buildings which includes residence halls, they are paid for strictly out of student fees."
But Gutshall said taxpayers, students, and their families should be concerned.
She said, "They're talking about cutting faculty, they're cutting staff, they're cutting programs and at the same time, we're seeing all of these new buildings and new construction on campus."
"We are extremely concerned about the amount that's being spent on capital at the expense of academics," Gutshall added.
Marhsall said "As public entities we are completely open, completely transparent about our budgets."
APSCUF said there will be a review of the other seven universities' budgets and it expects a report of the full state system by January.