Penn State board of trustees considers higher tuition rates for some students

mdawson@centredaily.comNovember 21, 2013 

— Penn State is exploring changes to its tuition structure that would result in some students in certain colleges on campus paying higher rates to get an education here.

Juniors and seniors in the colleges of Nursing, Engineering, Science, Earth and Mineral Sciences, Business, and Information Science and Technology already pay more than their peers at Penn State. Under some recommendations unveiled Thursday during a board of trustees committee meeting, the university is considering increasing the tuition cost of programs in those colleges as well as expanding that increased tuition level to freshmen and sophomores.

Those and some other recommendations could net the university $33.8 million the first year if they were all implemented, said David Gray, the vice president for finance and business, at the meeting.

The university is taking a look at these options as a way to replace revenues that have been lost due to cuts in funding from the state.

The recommendations were from a task force that explored how to increase revenue and cut costs. Liberal Arts Dean Susan Welch chaired the task force’s subcommittee on tuition and fees, which made the recommendations that were floated Thursday.

“The overarching view,” Welch said, “is that tuition should follow cost and demand a little more than it does.”

Programs like those in engineering, which have a high cost to run and have high demand, would be priced higher than others that don’t have a high cost or demand, she said.

One of the recommendations would increase the tuition $500 per semester for freshmen and sophomores in those colleges that already have the higher tuition tier.

Another recommendation has the university raising tuition $500 per semester the first year it’s put in place and an additional $100 per semester for five more years.

The university also is considering adding a 50 percent surcharge per credit on students who take more than 19 credits a semester. That’s the most for which a student can register without having to get approval from an adviser.

Depending on one’s major, that could mean an extra $330 to $430 for each credit after the 19th.

Gray said most of Penn State’s peer institutions have the extra credit surcharge, and that instituting it at Penn State could result in revenues of $2.4 million a year.

Board Chairman Keith Masser urged the trustees to reconsider this recommendation.

“You’re punishing someone who is wanting to get an education quickly and get out in the workforce,” he said, noting that his wife graduated in three years. “I’m having a hard time understanding that.”

Gray said the surcharge would eliminate students who register for a lot of classes only to drop them and keep other students from getting a spot.

President Rodney Erickson said the university needs to pay attention to the number of credits a student can take, as he said he talked with a student last week who is carrying 27 credits this semester.

Here are other highlights from the recommendations on tuition and fees:

•  Increase the information technology fee from $4 per semester to $6, and $2 from the fee would go to the campus where the student is taking classes.

•  Funnel some money, perhaps 5 percent, from undergraduate tuition revenue to need-based financial aid for undergraduates.

•  Impose fees on international students: $500 for the fall and spring semesters and $360 for the summer semester.

•  Charge a $750 fee to students enrolled in the university’s combined undergraduate and master’s degree programs. The fee would apply to each semester the student is taking the graduate courses.

•  Increase the tuition rates charged to external agencies that pay for Penn State students to do graduate work.

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