PASSHE cites flat revenue & increasing costs for tuition increase

Kutztown University and other state universities will see a 3 percent increase in tuition this fall.

The Board of Governors of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education approved on Tuesday, July 9, a 3 percent tuition increase for the 2013-14 academic year.

PASSHE reports in a release that the increase “virtually ensures PASSHE will remain the lowest-cost option among all four-year colleges and universities in the Commonwealth.”

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The increase breaks down to an additional $97 per semester, or $197 per year.

PASSHE also reports that the 3 percent increase means the total cost of attendance at a PASSHE university – including tuition, fees, room and board – likely will remain below the national average among all public colleges and universities in the United States, and significantly below the average in the middle states region of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

What is the reason for the increase?

Karen Ball of PASSHE Relations told The Patriot that PASSHE receives approximately 25 percent of its funding for the universities through the state budget. The remaining revenues are provided by students and their families through tuition and fees.

“For the past three years, the amount of funding from the state has remained flat while the system and its universities have experienced increases in several areas, the highest of which are in two areas over which we have little or no control --pension and health care costs,” said Ball.“While state funding has remained flat, the Board is very aware of the need to limit tuition increases as much as possible to keep our institutions the most affordable in the Commonwealth. While there have been modest increases in tuition, the revenues have not fully covered the increases in our operating costs.”

Board of Governors Chairman Guido M. Pichini said in a release, “It is very important to our students and their families that we keep our tuition affordable. With this action today, PASSHE universities will continue to provide outstanding value, combining high-quality educational opportunities with the most affordable cost available.”

Ball said thee leadership at PASSHE, including the Board of Governors and the university presidents,“aggressively have been managing the difficult financial pressures which we have experienced in the past few years.”

“PASSHE is not different from most of the other public higher education systems throughout the country in this challenge.”

When asked about the response from campus communities, Ball said each of their campuses is different and is responding to their particular needs.

Any concerns about the increase affecting enrollment?

“Because almost 90 percent of the students at our universities are Pennsylvania residents, the continuing decrease in the number of high school graduates in most regions of the Commonwealth is the single biggest factor impacting our enrollments,” said Ball.

Her advice for students who find the increase too much is to meet with their student financial aid office and the leadership on campus to make sure they are getting all the help available.

“We want our students to stay with us and to graduate with a degree that will help them establish their careers and adult lives,” said Ball.

Ball concluded, saying, “The PASSHE universities continue to be the best value in the Commonwealth for an affordable, quality education. The leadership of the System is committed to retaining these priorities.”

The new annual tuition rate for full-time, resident undergraduate students attending any of the 14 PASSHE universities, including Kutztown University, beginning this fall will be $3,311 per semester, or $6,622 for the full academic year. Nearly 90 percent of PASSHE students are Pennsylvania residents and about 85 percent attend full time, according to a release.

PASSHE will receive $412.8 million in state funding this year, the same amount received in 2012-13, which will cover about one-fourth of the operating costs of the 14 PASSHE universities. Operating costs are expected to increase in salaries, pension contributions, healthcare and utilities. Some of those increases PASSHE anticipates to be offset by a voluntary retirement incentive program offered to PASSHE faculty and coaches earlier this year, according to a release.

Other cost-reduction efforts implemented over the last 10 years have resulted in overall budget reductions of approximately $285 million, according to PASSHE who writes in a release that those reductions have helped keep annual tuition increases at or below the rate of inflation in most years since the cost-cutting efforts began.

Even with the tuition increase, KU still faces a budget deficit.

“With a 3 percent tuition increase, KU faces a $9.9 million deficit. We will not have to cut any programs and there will be no layoffs,” said David Johnson of Kutztown University Relations.

“$3.9 million will come from project cancellations such as Keystone Field upgrades and Poplar House renovations. $6 million will come from cutbacks on operational expenses,” Johnson told The Patriot on Thursday, July 11.

The PASSHE Board also approved new tuition rates for resident graduate students and all nonresident students. The resident graduate tuition rate in 2013-14 will be $442 per credit, an increase of $13. Nonresident graduate tuition will increase by $19 per credit to $663. Full-time, undergraduate tuition for nonresident students will range from $9,934 to $16,556, depending on a variety of factors, including the university and program in which a student enrolls. All of the increases average approximately 3 percent.

The tuition technology fee will increase by $5 to $184 per semester – $368 for the full academic year – for full-time resident undergraduate students and by $8 to $279 a semester – or $558 a year – for full-time nonresident undergraduate students. All funds raised by the technology fee are used to directly benefit student learning. Universities have used the funds to install new computer labs and to design multi-media classrooms, among other projects.

The state-owned universities are Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester Universities of Pennsylvania. PASSHE also operates branch campuses in Clearfield, Freeport, Oil City and Punxsutawney and several regional centers, including the Dixon University Center in Harrisburg and the Philadelphia Multi University Center in Philadelphia.