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Spanier: Penn State Will Control Tuition Increase, Tap Financial Reserves

on April 29, 2011 8:56 AM

Penn State's administration is determined "not to have tuition for this coming year (include) any greater than a typical tuition increase," university President Graham Spanier said Thursday.

Annual tuition increases in recent years have typically been in the range of four percent to six percent.

Speaking Thursday before the Faculty Senate, Spanier said the university administration recognizes that many Penn State students are saddled with major financial burdens right now.

He reiterated prior statements that the university is cutting expenses and finding new efficiencies, but he introduced a new element, too:

Penn State will dip into its financial reserves for the 2011-2012 academic year, Spanier said.

That's "always a bit of a risky undertaking," he said, "because you always want to have as much financial strength under the university as possible."

Among Penn State's biggest immediate financial challenges is a proposed cut of roughly 52 percent in its state support. That proposal, introduced last month by Gov. Tom Corbett, would trim university funding by more than $150 million a year.

Spanier said he thinks "the scope of the cut will be moderated."

But "I believe, in the end, there will be a cut in our (state-support) budget," he said.

As state budget talks continue, Spanier said, he thinks it'll be a few more weeks before Penn State has a clear picture of exactly how its state funding will emerge.

"The governor is in a tough spot. And we're supportive of him doing his best to get the budget back in order," Spanier said, referring to the roughly $4 billion state budget deficit. "We've also said that we expect to do our fair share -- whatever that might be.

"We continue to make our case in Harrisburg for some moderation in the scope of that cut that was proposed for Penn State's appropriation," Spanier went on. "We don't have a specific proposal as to what it should be or what our fair share will be. Of course, whatever it ends up being, we will live with that. We'll do our best not to complain about it," and to maintain the university's work.

State leaders are expected to finalize the 2011-12 state budget by early July. But many people in the capital are hopeful that a budget agreement can be reached before the end of June, Spanier said.

A timely budget agreement would be helpful to Penn State, Spanier said, as it would allow the university time to finalize its own budgeting. University trustees are due to set the 2011-2012 Penn State budget -- and tuition rates -- at their July meeting.

Among other news at the Faculty Senate meeting, Rob Pangborn, the dean for undergraduate education, said the university expects to enroll 7,200 to 7,600 new freshmen at University Park later this year. (Enrollment of first-time freshmen at the campus in 2010 was just more than 7,200, according to university data.)

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