Penn State proposes tuition freeze at 20 campuses in funding request

Tysen Kendig
September 09, 2005

University Park, Pa. -- Penn State, facing a continuing trend of underfunding that has shifted more of the burden of educational costs to students and families, has developed a new state funding proposal that would result in a freeze of tuition rates for nearly half of the University's student body.

The University's 2006-07 state appropriation request, approved today (Sept. 9) by Penn Stat's Board of Trustees, seeks an increase from the commonwealth of 10 percent for its Educational and General line item, and an overall increase of 9.5 percent in its appropriation. An increase also is included for the Pennsylvania College of Technology.

In return, the University would hold the tuition rates for nearly 38,000 students at 20 undergraduate campus locations at their current 2005-06 level, and limit the increase for Pennsylvania resident students at University Park to 5.9 percent.

Pennsylvania's community colleges received a 10 percent increase in state appropriations in 2005-06. If approved, a similar increase for Penn State in the next fiscal year would net nearly $30.9 million, for a total appropriation to the University of approximately $354.4 million.

This total appropriation would nearly equal the inflation-adjusted appropriation received by Penn State 11 years earlier, in 1995-96. The University's 2005-06 funding of $323.6 million represents just over 10 percent of Penn State's operating budget, and is three percent less than the appropriation received five years ago.

"Despite the University's vast social and economic importance, state budget difficulties have led to a current-year appropriation that is less than what the University received in 2001," said Penn State President Graham B. Spanier. "The appropriation cutbacks that have occurred since the turn of the century have forced tuition increases that threaten access for many Pennsylvanians, primarily at the campus locations. Our 2006-07 budget request seeks to address this issue."

The majority of the requested increase -- more than $24.7 million -- would be for the Educational and General line item, which covers basic operating costs and educational expenses.

The increase also includes $3.6 million in additional funding for Penn College in Williamsport, one of the campuses that would benefit from the proposed tuition freeze.

In fall 2004, a total of 37,684 students -- nearly half of Penn State's enrollment -- were enrolled at one of the University's 19 Commonwealth Campuses or at Penn College. These campuses offer many educational programs that are specifically designed to meet the needs of business and industry in the communities they serve.

In fact, many campuses have historically served a role similar to community colleges. With more than 7,500 students enrolled in associate degree programs last year at Commonwealth Campuses and Penn College, the University is Pennsylvania's single-largest provider of associate degrees.

These campuses are facing growing pressure on tuition, putting access at risk. "Penn State's Commonwealth Campuses and Penn College were created specifically to open opportunity and broaden access to higher education in the communities they serve," said Spanier. "We must ensure that this aspect of our land-grant mission continues."

The requested appropriation increase would not be used simply to replace the nearly $44 million in funding cuts absorbed by the University since 2001. The funds would be used to help support basic operating cost increases, with special emphases on escalating health care costs, deferred maintenance and facilities improvements and modest faculty and other high-priority initiatives.

While public funding has diminished, Penn State has faced dramatic increases in costs such as health care, insurances, technology, maintenance and library materials. Health care costs alone increased by $59 million -- or 92 percent -- from 2001-02 to 2005-06.

Details on how Penn State intends to allocate its 2006-07 appropriation can be viewed online at http://www.budget.psu.edu/.

Despite the fiscal challenges it faces, Penn State is ranked as one of the most efficient universities in America. Over the past decade, the University has aggressively trimmed budgets to the tune of $139 million in reallocations. The commitment to cost containment and belt-tightening measures is ongoing, and Penn State expects to reallocate an additional $8.1 million in the coming budget year.

Still, the University cannot continue to cut and maintain the access and economic vitality that is so critical to Pennsylvania's future, which makes additional support critical to the University's mission of teaching, research and public service.

"The budget request that the University is submitting will make Penn State and the commonwealth partners in an effort to assure continued access and affordability for the citizens of our state, while also ensuring the level of quality that Pennsylvanians have come to expect from their flagship university," said Spanier. "An appropriation increase of $30.9 million, with a corresponding freeze in tuition at the 20 undergraduate campus locations outside of University Park, will make Penn State and the commonwealth partners in the greatest investment that could be made for the future of Pennsylvania."

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 24, 2009