Penn State trustees confronted by Sandusky scandal discuss tuition hike

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Penn State University trustees met this afternoon, and despite progress reported on several fronts, the board was reminded yet again of the bitter division that remains following the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Minutes after Penn State President Rodney Erickson delivered a report to the board that included predictions of a modest increase in new students this fall and stable enrollment overall, the microphone was opened for the public comment portion of the meeting.

The first speaker, Brian Masella, an alum who played football under the late coach Joe Paterno, urged the board to rebuild a wall near Beaver Stadium honoring decades of Nittany Lion players.

He said the campus landmark and long-standing source of university pride was taken down by Penn State on the ill-conceived notion that its presence prevented the university from moving past the Sandusky scandal.

Mr. Masella said the players on that wall did nothing wrong. "They did not deserve to be disgraced and dishonored," he said of Penn State's Lettermen.

The real problem was "made-made," he added, referring to the trustees' decision to fire Mr. Paterno as the scandal erupted in November 2011.

He said neither Mr. Erickson nor the board responded to letters he sent in March seeking the wall's restoration.

"You claim that you want to be open. You talk communication through this public expression time here today, but you do not respond," he told trustees. "If fact, it appears you answer to now one, and you are accountable to no one."

Mr. Masella's remarks drew applause inside the Penn State Conference Hotel, site of today's meeting.

In his report, Mr. Erickson said the expected increase of 700 new students this fall is split between University Park and the commonwealth campuses. He said overall enrollment university is expected to roughly match last year's.

Also today, trustees were briefed on the university's plan to seek a 5 percent increase in its state appropriation for the 2014-15 academic year. Mr. Erickson said if the request is fully funded, Penn State expects to limit tuition increases efffective next fall to an aggregate of 2.85 percent. Individual campus rates would vary.

The submission of the university's appropriation request and predicted tuition increase is an early part of the yearly budget-making process expected to be complete by next summer.

Penn State's request would be a $14.7 million more than budgeted in 2013-2014, bringing total to just under $300 million. Penn State President Rodney Erickson said his administration has worked make tuition more affordable for students.

"And (we) continue to look at new ideas and be open to new ideas," he said.

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Bill Schackner: bschackner@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1977 and on Twitter: @BschacknerPG. Jessica Tully contributed.


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