Penn State’s Board of Trustees on Friday approved a tuition freeze for in-state students as part of a $6.5 billion university budget.
The total tuition per academic year for full-time, lower-division (freshmen and sophomores) Pennsylvania undergraduates will remain at $17,416, or $8,708 per semester, according to Penn State. The university estimates that the total cost — including tuition, student fees, room and board rate and incidental costs — of attending University Park, as an in-state undergrad, in 2018-19 will be $35,864.
The tuition freeze (the second in the past 50-plus years) came as the result of a 3 percent increase in Penn State’s general support appropriation from the state — up to $237.3 million. Penn State’s total appropriation from the state for 2018-19 is $327.4 million, which includes funding for Penn State Agricultural Research and Cooperative Extension, Pennsylvania College of Technology and Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
State Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, praised the tuition freeze Thursday, after it was recommended by the board’s finance, business and capital planning committee for approval.
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“The state budget held the line on spending without asking for more money from taxpayers. It’s gratifying to know the university is joining us in those efforts by not increasing tuition for its Pennsylvania students,” Corman said in a statement.
“It’s nothing short of wonderful to have (the state appropriation) be on time and to have it increase,” Penn State President Eric Barron told the CDT on Monday.
He noted that if the state had kept up with inflation, the university would be seeing an additional $150 million.
Full-time, lower-division out-of-state University Park undergraduate students can expect a tuition increase of 3.6 percent, or $588 per semester — bringing their total tuition to $33,820 per academic year. The university estimates that the total cost — including tuition, student fees, room and board rate and incidental costs — of attending University Park, as an out-of-state undergrad, in 2018-19 will be $52,268.
For the first time, the university is implementing a tiered approach to out-of-state student tuition at the Commonwealth Campuses. Their tuition increases will range from 2.7 to 3.3 percent, or $269 to $375 per semester, depending on which campus they attend, according to Penn State.
For the fourth consecutive year, the budget includes no tuition increase for students at eight of the university’s 19 campuses — Beaver, DuBois, Fayette, Greater Allegheny, Mont Alto, New Kensington, Shenango and Wilkes-Barre.
Barron emphasized the importance of students graduating on time.
“There’s nothing more important in saving money going to college than to graduate on time,” he said, adding that the university sees a “huge jump” in student borrowing if they go an extra year.
The newly established Sokolov-Miller Family Financial and Life Skills Center is another tool for students to learn how to go through school in the most cost-efficient way they can, Barron said.
He also said there’s a balance between affordability and the quality of the institution.
“How cheap a university do you want or would you rather have your university degree mean something?” Barron said.
The university’s operating budget also calls for the Student Initiated Fee (a combination of the former Student Activity and Student Facility fees) to increase $9 per semester at University Park, up to $267 per semester. It will increase $4 per semester at most of the Commonwealth Campuses, meaning it’ll range from $182 to $240 per semester, according to the university.
The fiscal plan also includes $31.4 million to fund contractual amounts for the labor agreements for Penn State’s unionized technical-service employees and campus health professionals; a 3 percent increase in grad assistant stipends; and a 2.5 percent pool to provide salary adjustments for faculty and staff, according to the university.