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Penn State Seeks Funding Boost; Tuition Increases of 4.9 Percent Possible

on September 17, 2010 4:23 PM

Penn State will ask the state for a five-percent increase in appropriations for the 2011-12 academic year, the university trustees decided Friday.

The request, if granted, would bring the university's state appropriations to a total of $364.2 million next year. With state funding at that level, Penn State would hold tuition increases to 4.9 percent for in-state students at University Park and 2.9 percent for those at Commonwealth Campuses, university President Graham Spanier said.

Increases for out-of-state students would be 3.5 percent at University Park and 2.9 percent at the other campuses.

Spanier, at the trustees meeting, said the the preliminary fiscal plan reflects an effort to keep tuition as low as possible.

"In our (state) request, we attempt to balance three factors: the commonwealth's ability to support us; our responsibility to continue to make the case for additional state support in light of the increased costs of fulfilling our mission; and the growing burden that tuition increases place on our students and their families," Spanier said in a prepared statement.

The state budgeting process this year may be fraught with more uncertainty than usual. For the 2010-11 year, federal stimulus money makes up nearly $16 million of the $333.9 million in state appropriations that Penn State will receive.

But the federal stimulus money does not appear likely to be replenished for 2011-12.

That means Harrisburg probably would need to find an extra $16 million just to keep Penn State's appropriations at their current levels. To reach the $364.2 million sought by Old Main for 2011-12, the state may need to come up with an extra $33 million.

"We're simply putting our there our request for what we think is modest and what we need," Spanier said. "But there's a lot of risk for us going forward because the state has a structural deficit that is probably between $3 billion and $5 billion. ... We know it's going to be difficult for them to put a (state) budget together and to be very generous with us."

In a worst-case scenario, if the federal-stimulus funds disappear and the resulting hole goes completely unfilled, Penn State could face "the most significant budget cuts in our history," Spanier said.

But he emphasized that the budget process is only just beginning. And it's not clear what a new gubernatorial administration in January will mean for Penn State.

"We have very little idea what the new governor may actually do or be faced with when all is said and done," Spanier said.

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