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Tuition to increase at Pennsylvania-owned universities

| Tuesday, July 9, 2013, 10:12 a.m.

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education board of governors on Tuesday boosted undergraduate tuition and fees by 3 percent, an increase that added to room and board and campus fees and bumps the average cost of a year at Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities to slightly more than $17,000.

That doesn't count books and other expenses.

This is the second straight year increases in tuition and technology fees were capped at 3 percent under an agreement the universities made with lawmakers to rein in costs in exchange for no reductions in state subsidies.

The increases of $194 a year in tuition and $10 a year in technology fees bring tuition to $6,622 a year and technology fees to $368 a year. Room and board and campus fees vary by university and other factors. The system pegged those costs at an average of $10,210 systemwide for the 2012-13 school year.

The average tab of $17,000 a year at state-owned universities in Pennsylvania is below last year's national average for public colleges, which the national College Board said was $17,860.

“With this action today, PASSHE universities will continue to provide outstanding value, combining high-quality educational opportunities with the most affordable cost available,” said Board of Governors Chairman Guido M. Pichini.

But some of the 115,000 students at the state universities are struggling.

“It seems to me that the tuition cost is always rising, while financial aid and any assistance is dropping,” said James Smith, 20, of West Mifflin, a junior at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. “I know I paid almost $1,000 more in tuition and fees from my first year to my second. The costs are starting to become a hassle and make it troublesome for students to get a higher education.”

Indiana University of Pennsylvania senior Joshua T. Noble, 21, of Richland said his rates have increased every year since he started college.

“I don't believe that charging more for education is the smartest path, but due to budget cuts and the unpredictable economic future, the increases are necessary. In the group of friends that I am in, everyone expects it,” Noble said.

State support for the 14 universities, which peaked at $483.9 million in 2007-08, has held at $412.7 million a year since 2011-12.

Graduate students and out-of-state students also face tuition and fee increases averaging approximately 3 percent this fall. 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.

Even with the increases, the state system faces a $50 million budget deficit attributed to a combination of flat state subsidies, increases in costs and declining enrollment. PASSHE officials said universities will have to make adjustments to close budget gaps.

Steve Hicks, president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, said he's worried about the futures of students and universities.

“While it is important to keep tuition as low as possible, we also have made a commitment to our students to continue to provide the high-quality education that they expect and deserve from our institutions,” Hicks said. “We must ensure that the state-owned universities have the resources necessary to support student instruction.”

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 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.

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com.

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