Penn State sees increase in undergraduate applications

Departing trustee says he ‘regrets’ firing Paterno

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Undergraduate applications to Penn State University for fall are running 9,000 ahead of last year, including increases of 19 percent at the main University Park campus and 8 percent at the university’s Commonwealth campuses, President Rodney Erickson said today.

In remarks to the school’s board of trustees, who are meeting this afternoon at the Hershey Medical Center complex, Mr. Erickson said out-of-state applications are up by 26 percent, and Pennsylvanians seeking admission are running 8 percent ahead of this time last year.

International applications show an 18 percent gain, he said.

“The quality of the applicant pool is noticeably higher too, with average SAT scores about 20 points higher,” Mr. Erickson told the board in remarks streamed live on the Internet.

Mr. Erickison offered less encouraging news on the state funding front.

He said his recent trip to the Legislature for Senate and House appropriations hearings yielded personal expressions of support from legislators but no commitment of additional funds for Penn State in its 2014-15 appropriation.

Gov. Tom Corbett has proposed generally flat funding for Penn State and other state-related schools, a dollar amount nearly 20 percent less Penn State’s appropriation a few years ago.

“If the governor’s budget proposal stands as recommended, it will require Penn State to make difficult choices again this year,” he said. “But we are aiming to keep to a minimum any tuition increase we bring to you for approval in July.”

During the public comment period, the board’s handling of the Sandusky child sex abuse scandal including the firing of late football coach Joe Paterno and damage to the university’s reputation once again dominated. One speaker told trustees that while they may want to move on, “There is no statute of limitations on ruining people’s lives.”

But Tom Hollander, Class of 1958, used his remarks to praise Mr. Erickson’s decision to forgo retirement and step into the breach. He intends to step down in June. “I think he left Penn State stronger than he found it.”

Mr. Hollander criticized “a continuing focus on the past” by some trustees, which he called a disservice to Penn State’s incoming president Eric J. Barron, who has been hired away from the presidency of Florida State University. And Mr. Hollander said students have a disconnect from alumni for a similar reason.

Bill Schackner:, 412-263-1977 or on Twitter @BschacknerPG. Karen Langley: or 1-717-787-2141. First Published March 7, 2014 3:48 PM

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