With projections now indicating that Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities are headed for a third consecutive enrollment decline, campuses this summer will face hard decisions about where to make additional spending cuts.
At a meeting Tuesday where a 3 percent tuition increase for the 2013-14 academic year was approved, the State System of Higher Education's board of governors reviewed data showing that the 14 schools could see additional losses this fall equivalent to 865 full-time students.
Numbers that would show the campuses where those declines are expected to be most pronounced were not available from officials Tuesday. But Kenn Marshall, a State System of Higher Education spokesman, said, "I think probably most of the schools in Western Pennsylvania" could see losses.
The decline in high school graduation numbers has been most significant in this part of the state, and Mr. Marshall noted that last year Indiana University of Pennsylvania was the only one of the five Western Pennsylvania campuses to see an enrollment gain. Clarion, Edinboro, California and Slippery Rock universities all saw losses ranging from approximately 2 to 10 percent.
Mr. Marshall offered a slightly improved estimate of the budget shortfall the State System will face even with additional money generated by the tuition increase. He said the system will face a $50 million shortfall instead of a $56 million shortfall on a budget of nearly $1.6 billion.
He said the universities have become accustomed to belt-tightening, noting the $220 million saved amid commonwealth funding cuts that included an 18 percent drop in the schools' state appropriation three years ago.
Still, he said, any financial strains could be exacerbated depending on how many classroom seats and dorm beds are empty this fall.
"Obviously, if there are fewer students, it's going to impact revenues," he said.
Tuesday's tuition vote means in-state students attending full time will pay $6,622 a year, an increase of $194. The board also approved a $10 increase in the technology fee to $368 annually.
A number of other fees are set by individual campuses, so the total cost of attendance can vary significantly by location.
In 2012-13, total average costs to attend including room, board, tuition and fees ranged from a high of $19,138 at IUP to $14,687 at West Chester University.
State System officials noted following Tuesday's vote that the higher tuition and fees still leaves the total cost of attendance at the 14 schools less than the national average for public colleges and universities in the United States, and well below the average in the Middle States region that includes Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.
"It is very important to our students and their families that we keep our tuition affordable," said Board of Governors chairman Guido M. Pichini.education - state
Bill Schackner: email@example.com, 412-263-1977 and on Twitter: @BschacknerPG