As he asked a high-powered panel to help him chart the future of higher education in Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Corbett on Monday avoided any mention of the deep spending cuts he has advocated for the 18 state-supported universities in each of his first two years in office.
Instead, he emphasized the value of trade schools and the potential of online instruction in preparing young people for jobs.
"In some respects, I think we might need to go back to the future," Corbett said in a brief speech at the first meeting of his 31-member Advisory Commission on Postsecondary Education, which includes the presidents of several of the state's largest universities and representatives of private colleges, community colleges, technical schools, businesses and law firms.
But asked about the cuts at an impromptu news briefing after his speech, the Republican governor challenged critics of his plan to suggest alternative measures to balance the budget.
Corbett's proposal would cut aid for three "state-related" universities, Penn State, Pitt and Temple, by about 30 percent and reduce spending for the 14 state-owned universities in the State System of Higher Education by 20 percent for the fiscal year that starts July 1. The "state-related" schools have a long history of receiving taxpayer money, but are not owned or controlled by the state.
"We are reducing the funding to education because we do not have the money. It is that simple," he said.