3 Percent Tuition Hike Approved for Students at PA-Owned Universities
Tuition is going up at the 14 state-owned universities. The Board of Governors of the PA State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) voted to increase tuition by three percent or $68 in the coming school year. That means students will be paying $6,820 per year.
“That’s far and away the lowest cost among all four-year colleges and universities in Pennsylvania. It’s the eighth time in the last 10 years that our increase has been essentially the rate of inflation,” said PASSHE spokesman Kenn Marshall.
He added the budget sitting on the governor’s desk would provide not funding increase for the 14 universities for a fourth straight year, and that follows an 18 percent cut in state appropriations.
Marshall said the tuition hike will help erase about half of the state system’s $58 million budget gap.
“We’re still looking at roughly $30 million that the universities combined will have to reduce their budgets next year,” Marshall said.
Those cuts will be spread proportionately among the 14 universities whose enrollments range from 1,800 to 16,000.
“Some universities will have to reduce the number of sections of classes," Marshall said. "Over the last couple of years there have been staff layoffs, faculty layoffs. There have been projects the universities have wanted to carry out but they have been delayed, equipment purchases postponed, just a whole range of things. The universities will have to look at virtually everything.”
According to Marshall, a major contributing factor to PASSHE’s bottom line is fewer students. There are 112,000 students at the 14 universities, down from a high of 120,000 a year ago. He said that last year 12 of the 14 schools saw a drop in enrollment.
“Those declines are due primarily to the fact there are fewer students graduating from Pennsylvania high schools," Marshall said. "About 90 percent of our (PASSHE) students are Pennsylvania residents so when the number of high school graduates in the state declines as it has in Pennsylvania over the last several years, that impacts our enrollments.”
He said that if the governor signs the budget on his desk, the state-owned universities will receive less funding than they did in 1997.
“As everyone knows inflation alone has probably increased significantly over 17 years, but we’re receiving less money than we did back then," Marshall said.
He noted that 20 years ago 75 percent of PASSHE’s budget came from state funding and 25 percent from tuition; now it’s 25 percent from the state and 75 percent from tuition.
“There’s been a rather dramatic shift, but that’s not unique to Pennsylvania, support for public education as a percentage of operating budgets has been declining for a number of years in most states,” Marshall said.