Penn State, University of Pittsburgh hold top public tuition rankings

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For the second straight year, a national survey finds Penn State University and the University of Pittsburgh hold an unflattering national distinction: Their tuition and fees are highest and second-highest respectively among public four-year schools.

The U.S. Department of Education on Tuesday released the second installment of its national comparison of college prices. It said that in 2010-11 the main campus price at Penn State was $15,250 and that main campus prices at Pitt totaled $14,936, amounts more than double the $6,669 national average at four-year public campuses.

There is a year lag in the survey's data, but the listings nevertheless provide a snapshot of how comparable institutions stack up.

In explaining their higher prices, Penn State and Pitt both point to Pennsylvania's ranking near the bottom in state dollar support for higher education.

The Department of Education price listings debuted last year. The updated ones focus on schools with the highest and lowest prices, before and after aid, and those whose costs are rising fastest.

"We want to arm students and parents with the information they need to make smart educational choices," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement. "Students need to know up front how much college will actually cost them instead of waiting to find out when the first student loan bill arrives."

Just behind Penn State and Pitt were the University of Vermont at $14,066; the University of New Hampshire main campus, $13,672; and St. Mary's College of Maryland, $13,630.

The highest public campuses still were several thousand dollars below the average private college tuition of $21,949, according to the survey.

"A 19.6 percent cut in state funding last year on top of a decade of lean state support has left Penn State increasingly reliant on students and their families to fund more of the costs of their Penn State education," Penn State spokesman Bill Mahon said.

John Fedele, a Pitt spokesman, said the understanding historically was the state gave an appropriation to Pitt in return for keeping in-state tuition low. "Pennsylvania is ranked among the bottom five states in support for higher education," he said.

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Bill Schackner:, or 412-263-1977. First Published June 13, 2012 12:00 AM


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