State colleges hiking tuition

Fourteen schools to institute 7.5 percent increase

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The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education announced the largest dollar value tuition increase in its history Thursday, partially offsetting dramatic cuts in state and federal funding for the upcoming school year.

Tuition for the 2011-12 school year will be $6,240 -- an increase of 7.5 percent, or $436, per full time, in-state student. The state system will receive more than $90 million less in state and federal funding next year than it did this year, which works out to about $802 per full-time student.

"We will not ask our students to bear the entire burden of the budget cuts we are facing," said Chancellor John C. Cavanaugh. "The tuition increase approved by the board today will fall significantly short of the funding we need to replace what we lost."

The state system also Thursday raised a technology fee paid by all students from $232 per year to $348 per year.

Nearly 120,000 students attend the 14 universities that make the state system. It will now be up to those individual campuses to make cuts or increase fees to balance their budgets.

"We're still doing calculations about exactly what this will mean," said Michelle Fryling, spokeswoman for Indiana University of Pennsylvania. "We are relieved that our students are not shouldering the entire bulk of the gap."

Where those cuts will come from remains to be seen, said Kevin Kodish, spokesman for the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties.

"It's going to be very challenging for the state system to move forward," he said. "We've set enrollment records -- it's hard to make instructional cuts when you have more and more demand."

The system has had higher percentage increases -- including a more than 15 percent increase for the 1991-92 school year -- but has never had a dollar increase more than $400 before.

Tuition for out-of-state students will increase as well, though those numbers will vary by individual campuses, said Kenn Marshall, a spokesman for the State System of Higher Education.

Declining state funding for higher education also contributed to high rankings for the University of Pittsburgh and Penn State University in new data (http://collegecost.ed.gov/) from the U.S. Department of Education.

Penn State and Pitt ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, for highest tuition costs at public, four-year colleges in the nation, with Penn State charging $14,416 and Pitt charging $14,154 in the 2009-10 school year. The survey listed the national average at $6,397.

Pitt-Titusville ranked first in the nation for the highest tuition at a public two-year college, charging students $10,430 versus a national average of $2,527.

Under federal law, the most expensive schools on the list will have to report why costs are high and what they are doing to control costs.

In a statement, the University of Pittsburgh said yesterday that the tuition rankings should be considered in the context of state funding.

The rankings "reflect the commonwealth's de-emphasis on higher-education funding during the past decade," Pitt said in a statement, noting that Pennsylvania ranked 46th among the 50 states in per-capita support for higher education in fiscal year 2010.

The statement also said that Pitt has been ranked a "Best Value" university twice this year in national publications.


Anya Sostek: asostek@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1308.


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