Jonathan L. Wesner, Ballot Position No. 16

Jonathan L. Wesner ’65 Sci
U.S. Judge, Office of Disability Adjudication
Reading, Pa.

Read Wesner’s official bio and position statement here (PDF download).

Answers to Questions

1. In view of sharply declining state appropriations, what steps should Penn State be taking to secure its financial future?

Penn State University is one of the largest employers in the Commonwealth.  There are over 300,000 alumni in PA as well. As I said in my podcast at, just visualize the massive revenue stream this introduces into Pennsylvania’s economy year after year after year. Nonetheless, the Governor has recommended profound cuts to our appropriation again this year. This is a lot like “biting the hand that feeds you.” Instead of making our job to produce talented, dedicated “income generators” more difficult, the Legislature should do quite the opposite.  Penn State’s resident tuition is the HIGHEST in the Big Ten, and appropriation cuts may be part of the reason. We already have a grass roots effort in place, however, as a charitable entity, Penn State is limited in its lobbying ability. I believe we should form one or more Super PAC’s (527 Organizations) for the express purpose of influencing the decisionmaking process in the House and Senate. In this way donors could channel funds to be used to stress issues that are so important to our financial future.

2. The rising cost of tuition nationally is making college less affordable for many students. Outline the steps you believe Penn State should be taking to address the issue.

In addition to the appropriation cuts referred to in the first question, costs within the University itself are a factor. Yet Penn State’s faculty-to-student ratio is about average for the Big Ten, so I do not believe cutting staff is necessarily an answer. Likewise, the salaries are not the highest in our Conference. What is starkly apparent, however, is that we may not be “putting Pennsylvanians first.”  All other schools in the Big Ten have a much greater spread between resident and non-resident tuition. In most instances, the latter is almost TRIPLE the former. I believe this is unfair and that we should support our home grown students. Another area where costs could be saved in is “Going Green.” Wherever possible, renewable resources should be utilized.

3. What form should Penn State’s land-grant mission take in the 21st century?

When I graduated with a degree in Zoology in 1965, it was in the College of Agriculture. Even though that major is now part of Science, I still think of myself as an “Aggie.”  Penn State and MSU are the first two of the land grant universities, and there is even a 3-cent 100th anniversary commemorative stamp to prove it. The original idea behind the “Farmer’s High School” was to further higher education in the area of agriculture.  Over the years this has been expanded to include mechanical research and engineering. Penn state has done a rather remarkable job in these disciplines, particularly with cutting-edge technology. My view of Penn State in the next century is a school that focuses on food resources to feed an ever larger, ever more hungry world.  Additionally, as competition for decreasing potable water supplies grows, particularly in third world countries, I see PSU at the forefront of development of new technology.

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