PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The union for more than 5,000 faculty and coaches at 14 of Pennsylvania’s state universities is officially on strike.

Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center Director Marc Stier released the following statement on the decision:

“This morning, faculty members at the fourteen universities that are part of Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) went on strike, having gone without a contract since June 30 of last year.

While there are many factors that went into the decision of APSCUF faculty members to head to the picket lines, it is important for us to recognize that a long history of underfunding higher education in Pennsylvania is the main factor behind the strike.

Pennsylvania has cut funding for higher education by 33.3% since 2008 when adjusted for inflation, a decrease of $2,234 per student. Pennsylvania ranks fourth from the bottom nationally in per capita spending on higher education: Spending on the PASSHE, community colleges, state-related institutions and private colleges was $250 in 2014, which is half the national average of $500 per capita.

Those budget cuts have made it more difficult for our kids to go to college. 
In 1984, state funding paid for 62% of costs for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) and tuition paid for 38% of costs; by 2008, state funding accounted for only 38% of costs, with 62% coming from tuition and fees. Today, tuition and fees accounts for nearly 72% of PASSHE funding.

Given the importance of PASSHE universities not just to students and faculty members but to all of us in Pennsylvania, it is important that the labor dispute be settled quickly and fairly and in a way that protects academic programs so vital to the state. But the long term prospects for higher education in our state won’t be secure unless political leaders reverse the decline in funding for higher education and our future.”