Treasurer Torsella’s Talk Focuses on Higher Education

The following is a message from AICUP about positive comments Treasurer Torsella gave about higher education:

While Treasurer Joseph Torsella fielded many questions at last week’s Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon on the revenue debacle and his responsibility in managing the Commonwealth’s investments, he also spoke about higher education. He talked about the importance of saving for college, specifically stating that “…a child with a 529 account is three times more likely to seek higher education, and four times more likely to graduate. And, if they graduate, they will earn, on average, $1 million more over the course of their lives.”  He also indicated his concern regarding the increasing cost of tuition.  He stated that “since the early 70s, public tuition for higher education has almost tripled, while household income has remained essentially flat. What used to be a ticket to a better life is now simply the price of entry for the global economy.”  Clearly he understood the importance of higher education and noted in his remarks that “…of  the 17.2 million jobs created since the end of the Great Recession, 95% of them have required some amount of higher education, whether that’s trade school, or a certificate program, or a bachelor’s degrees. Making sure that no kid is priced out of a shot at their dream is an issue of basic fairness and best serves the common good of the Commonwealth.”

Treasurer Torsella discussed the importance of finding solutions to give Pennsylvanians the skills they need at a price they can afford.  Accomplishing this goal is one of the “biggest fights here in Harrisburg,” he said. Torsella indicated that his agency is working to expand the PA 529 College Savings Program but also indicated that they are “… weeks away from announcing our pilot program for Keystone Accounts, giving every child born in Pennsylvania a college savings account, seeded with an initial deposit to get them started as savers and on the path to college or trade school.”  He noted that “When we create education savings accounts for kids, what we’re really doing is building new ladders of opportunity.”

In the Q & A and also in his recent visit with the Patriot-News Editorial Board, the treasurer stressed that he does not want to be one of the negotiators on the unfinished budget.  Torsella provided a $750 million limit on an internal line of credit at Treasury and has indicated that he will not provide more.  He stated that “he does not like the Treasury functioning as an emergency overdraft protection for the general fund.”  He also indicated that there is no precedent for long-term lending against a state budget that is not balanced.

Did you know? A bipartisan attempt to extend the federal Perkins Loan ahead of a September 30 deadline died in both chambers of Congress. According to NAICU, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee on Thursday blocked legislation in the Senate that would have kept the decades-old loan program alive for two more years. In the House, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on the floor that there were no plans to vote on a companion bill.  AICUP appreciates Senator Casey’s leadership on this issue as well as the support of the 12 House members from the Pennsylvania delegation who co-sponsored the legislation.  Thanks to everyone who advocated on behalf of this program.