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Penn State Warns Spring Tuition Hike Possible If State Funding Isn't Passed

by on October 13, 2017 11:14 AM

Penn State President Eric Barron says the university may be forced to raise tuition as early as the spring 2018 semester if Pennsylvania legislators do not approve the university's appropriation for the current fiscal year.

The school was expecting $318 million in state funding for 2017-18, but legislators have been at an impasse for more than three months over approving a state revenue bill and "non-preferred appropriations," for entities including the state-related universities.

Penn State's expected funding would include a $230.4 million general appropriation, which is used for education and to provide Pennsylvania students the discounted in-state tuition rate. The university has about 55,000 Pennsylvania resident students statewide.

“There are only two sources of funding for the educational mission of this University: tuition and our appropriation from the state," Barron said in a statement. "A gap in state funding this large cannot simply be absorbed and we would be forced to make even more dramatic cuts and raise tuition, perhaps even for the upcoming spring semester.”

In the latest plea from the university to Harrisburg, Barron said Penn State officials have sought reassurances from legislators that the school's funding is secure but have received no positive responses.

“Commonwealth officials are at a stage in this budget impasse that could result in zero funding for Penn State and the other state-related universities in Pennsylvania,” Barron said. “We are deeply concerned that this is not a temporary stall tactic. We fear it is a complete elimination of our $230.4 million general appropriation, as well as the $22 million needed by Penn College, and the $52.3 million that supports the statewide work of our Agricultural Research and Extension operations. Should this possibility become a reality, it would cause irreparable damage to not only the university, but the Commonwealth and its citizens as a whole."

Barron also renewed his call for Penn State community members to contact legislators and ask them to support the university's funding.

“We are in a precarious situation that foreshadows untenable, and frankly alarming, funding challenges for our university," Barron said.

University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Patrick Gallagher issued a similar statement on Thursday.

Penn State officials say they've implemented a number of cost-savings measures over the past two decades. They've been considering various scenarios related to state funding, including the previously "unthinkable" possibility of no state funding at all. Cost-cutting measures alone couldn't fill the gap if no state appropriation is provided, they said.

Penn State will need to decide in the coming weeks if a tuition increase for the spring will be necessary, a move the university says would be "unprecedented."

Provost Nick Jones said the school is not, however, considering closing any campuses.

"Penn State remains committed to its land-grant mission and serving the citizens of Pennsylvania through our unique campus structure. This is a priority,” Jones said. “Cuts come with consequences. We have continuously done what is necessary in the face of years of declining state support to maintain the services we provide to Pennsylvania and to retain the quality of a Penn State education. However, zero funding from the Commonwealth is an entirely different scenario. Pennsylvania, its residents, the University and our students, unfortunately, would not come away unscathed from such an action.”



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at geoff.rushton@statecollege.com or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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