3 percent tuition hike approved for Pa. public universities
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The State System of Higher Education is the first to follow through on a promise for public universities to keep tuition increases low in exchange for level state funding.
The system's board of governors Monday approved a 3 percent tuition increase, or $188 an academic year, bringing the full-time tuition for resident undergraduates at the 14 state-owned universities to $6,428 for an academic year.
The University of Pittsburgh and Penn State University are expected to set their tuition rates Friday.
For the State System, it was the fifth time in eight years that the percentage increase has been at or below the rate of inflation. It follows a 7.5 percent increase last year when state funding was cut by 18 percent for its operating budget.
Gov. Tom Corbett had proposed cutting it another 20 percent this year, but an agreement was reached for level funding if tuition increases stayed at or below inflation.
The system received $6.8 million from the state last year and will do so again this year for deferred maintenance.
The tuition increase will generate about $27 million if enrollment stays the same, but, given a declining number of high school graduates, the system is forecasting a slight decline in enrollment.
In 2011-12, the system had nearly 120,000 students, including students at California, Clarion, Edinboro, Indiana and Slippery Rock universities.
In addition to the tuition increase, the technology fee will go up by $10 to $358 for the academic year for full-time resident students.
For students other than resident undergraduates, approved tuition increases averaged about 3 percent.
Even with the tuition increase, State System spokesman Kenn Marshall said, the campuses combined face a $15.8 million shortfall that will have to be covered by making cuts. The overall budget totals about $1.5 billion.
During the past decade, the schools have taken actions that resulted in saving more than $220 million, Mr. Marshall said. That includes eliminating or holding vacant more than 900 positions across the system.
Other cost-savings actions include joint purchasing, more energy-efficient systems, a retirement incentive, newly negotiated contracts and delayed equipment purchases and maintenance.
"The universities are just going to have to do more of the same," Mr. Marshall said.
"The ultimate goal will be to ensure those cuts have the least possible impact on students and their education and student services, but there's going to have some additional cuts made," he said.
Mr. Marshall noted that new legislation signed last week may help some, including legislation permitting university presidents and employees to be more actively engaged in fundraising, allowing universities to participate in multi-state purchasing groups and opening the possibility for faculty members and their universities to potentially make money by marketing their research and other intellectual property.
First Published July 10, 2012 12:00 am