Tuition rising 3.9 percent at Pitt's main campus

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University of Pittsburgh students this fall will see a 3.9 percent tuition increase on the main campus and a 2 percent price hike on the school‘‍s four regional campuses.

The new rates were established Friday by school trustees as the university’‍s chancellor, Mark Nordenberg, expressed hope that Pennsylvania will end the prolonged erosion of financial support, which Pitt leaders contend is a key reason their tuition prices outpace those at other public universities nationally.

The varied rates approved for the 2014-15 academic year amount to an overall, blended price hike of 3.3 percent across the 35,000-student university. The rates are contained in Pitt‘‍s $1.97 billion fiscal year 2014-15 operating budget (see below), which also was approved Friday by the trustees’‍ budget and executive committees.

Tuition amounts paid by individual students vary by field of study and campus and do not count room, board and other mandatory fees.

In arts and sciences, Pitt’‍s largest area, in-state students attending full time on the main campus will see a $632 increase in yearly base undergraduate tuition to $16,872. Out-of state students in arts and sciences will see a $1,022 boost in those rates to $27,268, according to data released by the university.

In-state undergraduate rates elsewhere on the Pittsburgh campus (see below) will range from $16,392 in dental medicine  (associate degree program) to $21,240 in both nursing and health and rehabilitation sciences.

The tuition increases approved are smaller percentage-wise than in some recent years, but that was of little consolation to some on campus Friday, among them Gita Venkat, 20, a rising junior from Doylestown, Pa. who already expected to graduate with $40,000 in loan debt.

“The increase in tuition is going to make it that much more difficult,” said Ms. Venkat, a double major in psychology and economics who as a first-year-student mentor was on campus Friday morning to greet prospective students visiting the school.

“Hopefully after college, I’‍ll get a good job and pay off those loans,” she said.

PG graphic: Tuition rates
(Click image for larger version)

Last month, the U.S. Department of Education for the second consecutive year ranked Pitt as the nation‘‍s priciest public university for tuition, just ahead of Penn State University.

At Friday’‍s trustees’‍ meeting, Mr. Nordenberg acknowledged the unwanted distinction, telling trustees, “We have been identified as the highest-priced public university in America, and we are more expensive than we’‍d like.”

He said, however, the Education Department ranking measures freshmen rates, and that once tuition costs over four years are factored in, Penn State actually is more expensive given an extra charge to juniors and seniors there.

Pitt, like Penn State, lays much of the blame on recurring losses in state support, including a 21 percent funding cut in 2012 and flat funding since that have rolled back state support to mid-1990s levels.

“I hope that we have reached a point that state government recognizes we just can‘‍t go any lower,” said Mr. Nordenberg, who is stepping down next month after two decades in office.

He said higher education funding in Pennsylvania has not rebounded as it has in most other states since the nation began emerging from the Great Recession.

“My hope is in the years ahead the commonwealth will begin to take steps to move in a different direction so that over time we can take a look at Pennsylvania and say it is more competitively positioned,” Mr. Nordenberg said.

Arthur Ramicone, Pitt’‍s chief financial officer, said the university‘‍s financial aid budget will be increased this year by 3.3 percent, bringing the institutional aid budget to $168 million for 2014-15. The operating budget also includes a 2.5 percent increase in the salary pool.

Mr. Nordenberg, as he has in past years, described the budget as a sound spending plan that properly balances the importance of shepherding resources with the need to maintain academic quality. Leaders pointed to continuing growth in applications in recent years as proof the right balance had been struck.

But Mr. Nordenberg said the tuition burden has increasingly shifted from government to students and their families.

Applications to undergraduate programs on Pitt’‍s main campus total more than 30,000, up by 11 percent from a year ago. Provost Patricia Beeson said applications and deposits also are up on Pitt‘‍s campuses at Bradford, Greensburg, Johnstown and Titusville, some of which have seen soft enrollment demand in recent years.

At those campuses, tuition rates are 26 percent lower than on the main campus. Friday‘‍s vote means that in-state arts and sciences students at Pitt Bradford, Greensburg and Johnstown will pay $244 a year more to attend full-time and $210 more at Titusville.

The board also established a schedule of graduate tuition prices.

Bill Schackner:, 412-263-1977 and on Twitter: @BschacknerPG

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