The drum rolls and a voice begins to sing:
“Please, please, please, Mr. Corbett,
I want to study in PA.
We’d be happy to have you
So long as you don’t take our funding away.”
“Hey, Mr. C, why you robbin’ me?
You’re taking students’ money and you’re throwing it away!
You pulled a switcheroo, now we’re wading through the goo,
And we hope our legislators save the day!”
With no context, the track sounds like a school marching band busting into a Glee-inspired take on the Jackson Five, which is pretty close to what it actually is.
“Hey, Hey, Hey, Mr. Corbett” is the response of a student-and-professor team at the West Chester University School of Music to Gov. Corbett’s budget proposal, which includes a huge chop to education spending in Pennsylvania.
Last week, Corbett proposed cutting funding to West Chester University and Pennsylvania’s other 13 state colleges by $330 million, almost 20 percent. Meanwhile, funding to state-related universities such as Temple University—the least expensive option in Philly—will be cut by 30 percent. Support for community colleges will be cut by 4 percent.
“It is a budget that proposes more in the way of reforms by continuing to change the culture of government from one of entitlement to one of enterprise,” Corbett announced.
“I co-wrote “Hey, Hey, Hey, Mr. Corbett” with Hassan Estakhrian, a composition major here,” says 43-year-old Mark Rimple, professor of music theory and composition. “It’s really about last year’s budget but it’s … applicable this year, which is frightening.”
Last year, Corbett proposed a 50 percent cut to higher education, but settled for 19 percent.
According to Karen Ball, vice chancellor for External Relations for Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE)— a coalition of the 14 universities offering the lowest cost for a bachelor’s degree in the state—last year’s cut translated into $800 in extra tuition per student per year. However, through austerity measures that include maintaining employment vacancies and offering fewer courses, the system was able to absorb some of the financial burden and whittle the extra tuition down to an additional $436 per student per year. Ball says that all told, if this budget goes through as proposed, Pennsylvania’s state colleges will have lost $170 million in funding the last 18 months.
Estakhrian, a 28-year-old senior majoring in music theory composition and voice, says he would not have been able to afford West Chester University without various streams of assistance, including financial aid. Estakhrian works by traveling back to his hometown of Lancaster every weekend to teach piano, guitar and bass lessons for extra money. “I have 10 or 11 students … that supplements my income slightly, but I wouldn’t be able to afford my education unless I had grants, loans and my scholarship.”
At West Chester University, full-time in-state tuition for 2011 is $3,120, up from $2,777 in 2009. As the Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported, nationally, the cost of tuition and fees has nearly tripled in the last 30 years.