Pennsylvania state universities freed to set tuition |

Pennsylvania state universities freed to set tuition

Deb Erdley

Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities will have new latitude in setting tuition under a policy the Board of Governors of the Pennsylvania State System of High Education approved Thursday.

Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities will have new latitude in setting tuition under a policy approved Thursday.

Annual tuition rates for the schools — include California, Clarion, Edinboro, Indiana and Slippery Rock universities in Western Pennsylvania — always have been controlled by the Pennsylvania State System of High Education’s oversight board, which typically set a single tuition rate in July after the state budget was passed.

Although costs for room and board and fees vary from school to school, base tuition for 2018-19 was $7,716.

Several universities, including IUP, have been experimenting with pilot programs that set tuition rates based on a per credit model.

PASSHE Board of Governors on Thursday voted to allow the schools, nearly all of which have struggled with increasing costs and declining enrollment, to set their own tuition, subject to board approval.

The new policy takes effect for the 2020 school year. Officials believe it will give the universities that enroll approximately 98,000 students statewide the ability to make allowances for regional economic differences, including cost of living, the local economy and specific program costs.

The change also calls for schools to set rates for two years at a time and announce tuition rates by April each year to give families more advance notice of costs.

PASSHE spokesman Kenn Marshall said the new policy is part of an ongoing strategic redesign of the state system that has been struggling with declining enrollment and stagnant public subsidies in recent years.

“You could end up with a tiered system of tuition based on family income or programs. We don’t know what they will come back with. One of the things we’ve challenged them to do is to look around and see what others are doing and come back to us with a plan,” Marshall said.

While there is no guarantee the new policy will hold the line on tuition, officials believe the next step in the redesign, the adoption of a so-called sharing system, will help control costs.

“In a sharing system, the universities will work more closely together, expanding educational opportunities for students while ensuring the programs they offer align even more closely with workforce needs,” said PASSHE Chancellor Dan Greenstein said. “They will combine and share more of their business and administrative functions, enabling the universities to reduce their cost of operations and become more cost-efficient so all of us will be better equipped to focus on our top priority — student success.”

Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 724-850-1209, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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