Penn State University students likely will see yet another tuition increase this fall, though perhaps one less onerous than in previous years.
The university's board of trustees today is expected to vote on proposed increases in the base in-state tuition for the 2013-14 academic year that would vary by campus from nearly 3.4 percent to less than 1 percent,
The rates were unveiled Thursday by the trustees' finance, business and capital planning committee, assembled for the first of two days of trustee meetings at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus.
Committee members and Penn State President Rodney Erickson said the rates reflect a desire to keep college within students' financial reach and are an acknowledgement that a declining number of high school graduates has reduced the pool of prospective students.
The numbers also reflect a February agreement between public university leaders and Gov. Tom Corbett to minimize tuition increases in return for being spared additional cuts in state aid.
Like other universities across the commonwealth, Penn State has struggled of late to balance its books in the face of a weakened economy and deep state funding reductions. A weakened market for students has only added to those pressures, in particular on some of its branch campuses.
"We continue to acknowledge the impact of adverse demographics of high school age students particularly in Western Pennsylvania, while recognizing that adult students in Pennsylvania may find Penn State of interest to them as they consider changing careers or furthering their education," Mr. Erickson said in a statement released as the committee met.
The school with 96,000 students in recent years has held the dubious distinction as the nation's most expensive public university, until the University of Pittsburgh overtook it in June. Both state-related universities said the high tuition reflects relatively low state funding support.
The largest proposed increase would affect Penn State's main University Park campus, where freshmen and sophomores now pay $15,562 a year. A 3.39 percent increase is proposed there, or $528 per year for in-state students.
Non-Pennsylvanians on the main campus would see a smaller percentage increase of 2.87 percent, but because out-of-state tuition is higher, that translates into a larger dollar amount -- an additional $800 per year.
At the Penn State Altoona, Berks, Erie and Harrisburg campuses, tuition would rise by 2.45 percent, or $320 a year, under the proposal.
At several other Penn State campuses, the proposed increase is 1.85 percent, or $232 per year. Those include Abington, Brandywine, Hazelton, Lehigh Valley, Schuylkill, Worthington Scranton and York.
Students attending most other Western Pennsylvania campuses -- Beaver, DuBois, Greater Allegheny, Fayette and New Kensington -- would see increases of 0.75 percent, or $94 per year, if the plan is adopted.
The university proposed no tuition increase for Penn State Shenango.
Tuition prices can vary by major and a student's year of study, and the proposed tuition does not reflect various fees.
For instance, total costs for first-year students on the main campus in tuition, room and board, as well as other fees would total $26,362 for Pennsylvania residents and $38,936 for students out of state, according to Penn State data.
Trustees today will vote on modifications to three fees.
At all of Penn State's two dozen locations, the information technology fee would increase by $8 a year to $496; the student activities fee would rise by $4 a year to $174; and the student facilities fee would rise by $8 a year to $232.
The proposed tuition increases unveiled during Thursday's daylong committee meetings represent in the aggregate a 2.76 percent increase, second-smallest increase at Penn State since 1967 after last year's price hike, Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said.
Bill Schackner: email@example.com, 412-263-1977 and on Twitter: @BschacknerPG. First Published July 11, 2013 10:30 AM