Pa. universities board boosts tuition for 2011-12

June 30, 2011 5:36:18 PM PDT
A 7.5 percent tuition increase approved Thursday by the board that governs Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities will cost full-time resident students an additional $436 for the 2011-12 academic year, largely because of state aid cuts.

The increases for resident students will push the annual cost of tuition from $5,804 to $6,240. The State System of Higher Education board also increased the technology fee that all students pay by 50 percent, or $116 a year, to $348 annually.

Of the 120,000 students enrolled at system campuses, nearly 106,000 are Pennsylvania residents.

Out-of-state students, who pay as much as 2.5 times more in tuition than in-state students, will generally pay the same 7.5 percent increase. At West Chester University, for example, annual non-resident tuition will increase from $14,510 to $15,600.

Gov. Tom Corbett originally called for a more than 50 percent reduction in appropriations for the state universities and four "state-related" schools - Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln - as part of his plan for erasing a multibillion-dollar deficit for the fiscal year that starts Friday.

Students and faculty members were among the Pennsylvanians who joined in demonstrations against the cuts, and the Legislature trimmed those reductions to less than 20 percent in the budget bill that received final approval Wednesday night.

Even with the increased tuition and fees, which together are expected to generate $79 million, Chancellor John Cavanaugh said the system faces a $33 million deficit. He said system officials are focusing on expanding online instruction, which is already the fastest growing mode of instruction, and made clear that layoffs are among the money-saving options that will be considered.

"Above all, we must keep tuition affordable for our students and their families," he said. "Our universities will have to find additional ways to reduce their budgets so that we can do so."

Board members stressed their dual goals of providing a quality education and keeping costs low. Leaders of the union that represents system faculty members and coaches said increases were necessary.

"We are the lowest-cost alternative, but we can't be the lowest-quality alternative," said Steve Hicks, a Lock Haven University professor and president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties.

Corbett's education secretary, Ron Tomalis, and the governor's designee on the board, Jennifer Branstetter, cast the only votes against the increases.

Two student representatives voted for them.

"This is our contribution to closing up the appropriation gap and trying to maintain our standards at our institutions," said Sarah Darling, a student at Millersville University.