New-look PSU board of trustees to meet, hash out budget

mcarroll@centredaily.comJuly 10, 2014 

Penn State trustees will gather Thursday in Schuylkill County for their July meeting, and they’ll do it without a single alumni-elected member who served when the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke in November 2011.

It’s a first for the board of trustees, which in the past few years has been flooded with calls for reform by alumni angered over the way the board responded to the scandal.

Alumni groups such as Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, campaigning for reform, have helped replace nine alumni-elected trustees who sat on the board when the late head football coach Joe Paterno was fired.

Turnover elsewhere — from governor-appointed members to those selected by the business and agriculture communities — means those who served in 2011 are now in the minority.

On Thursday, six new members will take seats. Longtime state Sen. Bob Jubelirer, former Sallie Mae CEO Al Lord and Alice Pope, a psychology professor at St. John’s University, were elected by alumni.

Former Prologis CEO Walter Rakowich and Daniel Mead, president and CEO of Verizon Wireless, were named business and industry board members. Allie Goldstein, a Penn State student pursuing a doctorate in higher education, was appointed by Gov. Tom Corbett.

Cliff Benson, chief development officer for the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres, and Todd Rucci, a former Penn State letterman who played eight seasons in the NFL, both governor appointees, joined the board in May.

Penn State President Eric Barron will join the new faces in his first official meeting since being selected to succeed Rodney Erickson.

The new-look board will vote on an operating budget for 2014-15 that could include a tuition increase.

Erickson previously told state legislators that flat funding from the state budget, or $214 million for Penn State, would mean the university would have to increase tuition by about 3 percent.

That’s similar to the tuition increase the university adopted last year — 3.39 percent for in-state students.

In addition to possible tuition increases, the board of trustees discussed earlier this year increasing room and board rates by about $400 for the next school year.

The average cost for a standard room with two beds and the most common meal plan would be $4,885 per semester, or $9,770 for the year. That’s a 4.27 percent increase over the current year.

A study by the U.S. Department of Education last week showed that Penn State is the second most expensive four-year public university in the country. The study used tuition figures for in-state students for the 2012-13 academic year and showed Penn State’s tuition and fees, excluding room and board, at $16,444.

The trustees are also scheduled to continue discussing possible changes to size and constitution of the board. Some reform-minded trustees have called for a smaller membership, but it remains to be seen whether the shift in the board’s makeup gives them enough votes to make changes.

The university has hired Holly Gregory to help move along the debate, and she is scheduled to facilitate a discussion of governance proposals at a committee meeting Thursday.

Meanwhile, a state Senate committee has moved forward proposed legislation that would reduce the board from 30 voting members to 23 and boot the university’s president, the governor and a state secretary off the panel altogether.

Penn State has urged the General Assembly to wait on reform recommendations from the board’s governance committee before pursuing the law.

The board will gather Thursday for committee meetings and Friday for the full board meeting in Schuylkill Haven.

Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.

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