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Tuition hike seen for state-owned universities

| Saturday, May 31, 2003

Students at the 14 state-owned universities will face higher tuition and bigger classes this fall.

The projected deficit of the State System of Higher Education ranges from $42 million to $67 million, depending on how much help it gets from the state, how much it raises tuition and what happens in contract negotiations with faculty. The Harrisburg-based system governs the state-owned universities, including Slippery Rock, Indiana, Clarion and California.

"We're looking at a period here where our budget has been going down, down, down at the same time our student enrollment has been going up," Chancellor Judy G. Hample said in an interview Friday.

Since 2001, the system's enrollment has grown by about 6,000 students to 101,546. During the same period, its base support from the state has fallen from $452.8 million to $417.2 million for next year.

The system had budgeted for a 4.5 percent increase in tuition for the next school year before the state cut its appropriation by 5 percent. The system's Board of Governors will set tuition at its July 10 meeting.

Hample said she has told the 14 universities to identify budget cuts of 5 percent. That would mean an average increase of two or three students in classrooms and delays in library and technology buys. Average class size is 29 for freshmen and sophomores, 17 for juniors and seniors and 12 for graduate students.

The wild card affecting tuition is a contract with 5,000 faculty members that expires June 30.

Hample said management asked for a two-year contract that would freeze wages, require faculty to pay for health care premiums for the first time and eliminate tuition waivers for faculty spouses and children. Under the faculty proposal, she said, the cost of raises for the first year of the contract would be $25 million.

The faculty's pay proposal, Hample said, would raise the system's shortfall to $67 million in the first year. The average pay for faculty at the state-owned universities is $67,505.

Last year, after the state cut its appropriation by 3 percent, the system raised tuition by a record 9 percent. Every 1 percent increase in tuition generates $5 million.

"The State System of Higher Education has never done a double-digit tuition increase," Hample said.

"I would agree with her that negotiations are real rough right now," said William E. Fulmer, president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties. "But the reason they're difficult is not just the economic situation.

"We're realistic enough to know that it's not good. Our proposal is a modest one."

In the first year of its three-year proposal, Fulmer said, the union is asking for less than half of the pay raise that was given to low-level managers last spring. The average manager received a 5.5 percent pay hike. The presidents received pay increases ranging from 1.5 percent to 15 percent. Hample makes $290,813.

Hample said she will freeze the pay of all executives, including herself, if faculty accept a pay freeze.

"Of course she will -- after she gave them a nice increase," Fulmer said.

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