Penn State University students face another tuition hike, though a smaller one than many of them had feared, as the school grapples with a $68 million cut in state aid.
University president Graham Spanier presented the Board of Trustees on Friday with a proposal to increase tuition by 4.9 percent for in-state freshmen and sophomores enrolled at the main
campus in State College. That represents a $700 annual increase to about $15,100.
Tuition would rise 3.5 percent, or about $900, for out-of-state freshmen and sophomores attending main campus to about $27,200 a year. Tuition at satellite campuses would go up 2.9 percent for
both in-state and out-of-state students.
Spanier said Penn State did everything it could to moderate the tuition hike, including across-the-board budget reductions and a salary freeze, as it responded to the largest funding reduction in school history. About 80 layoffs are expected to take place within the cooperative extension and agricultural research portions of the College of Agricultural Sciences, on top of the 80 staffers who took early retirement last winter.
"To say that it has been a tumultuous and unsettled few months leading up to this point would be an incredible understatement," Spanier said.
The average annual increase in tuition would amount to about 3.8 percent, or $515, according to Penn State. Spanier called it "one of the lowest increases in the nation." Two-thirds of Penn State
undergraduates would see tuition increases of between 2.9 and 3.5-percent.
Trustees are scheduled to vote in the afternoon on the tuition proposal and on the university's $4.1 billion proposed budget.
Earlier this year, Gov. Tom Corbett proposed a 50 percent cut in funding to Penn State and 17 other state-supported universities.
The proposal led to demonstrations, rallies and lobbying efforts by angry students, staff and faculty at campuses throughout Pennsylvania. Negotiations reduced the cut to 19 percent by the
time Corbett signed the budget last month.
Student body president TJ Bard, a junior from Greencastle, Pa., said Friday he was pleased by the relatively modest tuition hike.
"A lot of us were very worried," said Bard, who has already racked up $35,000 in student loans. "We were anticipating double-digit tuition increases and that's something the average student at Penn State wouldn't be able to bear the brunt of."
Penn State's share of state funding decreased by $68 million to $279 million. Some layoffs have already occurred, particularly in public broadcasting and outreach. The university employs about
41,000, more than 24,000 full time.
"Everything considered, I hope most of you feel some relief that the Legislature moderated the cut to our appropriation," Spanier told the board Friday. "We are appreciative of the efforts
of the legislators for their work on behalf of Penn State. Without their support, Penn State and higher education would be facing a much greater challenge this year."
But he added the $68 million reduction in state aid is "not without consequence," and that Penn State is "doing everything possible to find ways to trim costs further."
The university had assured state lawmakers that next year's tuition increase would be among the lowest in recent history.
Tuition rose 5.9 percent, or about $800, last year for in-state freshmen and sophomores at University Park. It went up 4.5 percent, or by more than $1,100, for out-of-state freshmen and sophomores.