University Park to see almost 3 percent tuition increase

mcarroll@centredaily.comJuly 10, 2014 

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— Most University Park students face a 2.99 percent tuition hike under a proposed operating budget that cleared the board of trustees’ finance committee Thursday.

For most in-state students, it means an extra $482 a year, pushing the total they pay annually for tuition to $16,572. Students from outside Pennsylvania will pay $858 more, or $29,522 for the year.

It means Pennsylvania students starting as freshmen at the University Park campus this coming school year would pay about $27,108 for tuition, on-campus housing, meals and fees.

University Park upperclassmen who are studying business or certain STEM fields will face even higher increases. In-state students in those fields face a hike of 5.16 percent, or $950 more a year, and students from outside the state will see a 4.27 percent increase, or $1,336 more a year, according to the proposed budget.

Proposed tuition increases are smaller at the university’s commonwealth campuses, between 1.2 and 2.4 percent, and at one there will be no increase.

Overall, it means the average tuition increase for Penn State is 2.73 percent.

The trustees, meeting this week at the commonwealth campus in Schuylkill County, will vote on the $4.6 billion proposed operating budget Friday.

It includes a $214.1 million general support appropriation from the state, which is level funding for Penn State for the third consecutive year. In 2011, state funding was cut dramatically. Since then, tuition has continued to climb.

Penn State said Thursday that this year’s average hike is the second-lowest percentage increase since 1967.

“We are committed to doing everything possible to ensure that access to a Penn State degree is within the financial reach of the citizens of the commonwealth, without sacrificing the quality of our programs,” President Eric Barron said in a statement.

“We appreciate the commonwealth’s support in a challenging fiscal climate,” Barron said. “As Pennsylvania’s economy improves, it is my hope that we can demonstrate that an additional investment in Penn State will yield economic gains for every citizen of the commonwealth.”

Trustee Bill Oldsey, a member of the finance committee, questioned Thursday why the university’s tuition for in-state students is high among its peers while its out-of-state rates are in the middle of the pack.

Oldsey said he hears from second- and third-generation alumni families who ask about the disparity and wonder why the school doesn’t increase its rates for students from other states.

Barron, attending his first meeting since officially stepping into his role as president, said that raising those rates in an economic downturn might have prevented out-of-state students from attending.

“My sense is I probably would have taken the more conservative track Penn State has taken,” he said. “... I think as the economy improves, it’s a number to go back and look at.”

The board’s finance committee voted Thursday to send the spending plan to the full board, and Barron will present the budget in greater detail Friday to the full board of trustees.

According to the presentation, the budget includes room for “modest salary adjustments” for faculty and staff.

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

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