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Penn State Set to Ask State for $115 Million Increase in General Support Funds

Update: The full Board of Trustees approved the appropriations request during its meeting on Friday.

Original story:

Penn State hopes to soon ask for a significant increase in state funding after receiving little additional help from lawmakers in Harrisburg in recent years.

On Thursday, the Board of Trustees’ Committee on Finance, Business and Capital Planning adopted a funding proposal that would sharply increase the university’s general support appropriation. Penn State would ask for a $115.2 million boost to its general support appropriation — a 47.6% increase over 2022-23 — that would bring that state funding pool to $357.3 million for the 2023-24 academic year. Increased funding would help Penn State manage in-state tuition costs, retain faculty and staff and preserve university assets, according to Thursday’s committee meeting.

In total, Penn State’s next state funding request would total $469.5 million. Non-general support appropriation funds aid agricultural research and extension, Penn State Health and the College of Medicine, the Pennsylvania College of Technology and Invent Penn State.

Penn State’s full board would need to approve the proposal at its meeting on Friday before a formal request could get underway. If approved, it would easily become the largest requested state appropriation increase in the university’s history.

Penn State typically receives less state funding on a per-student basis than other universities throughout the commonwealth. The university estimated its state funding covers about $5,600 in support per Pennsylvania undergraduate, far less than Temple ($8,275), the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education ($8,378) and Pitt ($9,049).

“As Pennsylvania’s only land-grant university, we feel strongly that Penn State students and their families deserve as much funding per student as the other state-related universities in Pennsylvania,” President Neeli Bendapudi said in a statement. “To support our students at a lower funding level than those at other institutions impacts our ability to maintain access to and affordability of a world-class Penn State degree for all qualified Pennsylvanians.”

Penn State estimated state support remains below 2010-11 funding levels, essentially the same as the university’s state funding in 2000. Twenty-two years of inflation and rising costs have exacerbated the need for increased funding, according to the university.

Although Penn State will likely request an appropriation increase, adoption is far from a guarantee. Despite support from Gov. Tom Wolf, the Pennsylvania General Assembly declined this summer to approve a 5% increase to Penn State’s general support appropriation, which would’ve boosted funding by $12.1 million. Wolf plans to direct American Rescue Plan funds to Penn State to cover that requested increase after all, but university officials said last week the one-time funds weren’t yet received.

Penn State’s general support appropriation sits at $242.1 million for the third straight year. The university’s last increase came with a 2% boost for the 2019-20 academic year.

General support appropriation funds are used solely toward Penn State’s education budget, allowing the university to restrain in-state tuition rates and support academic programs. Still, Penn State’s tuition for in-state students remains the highest among the Big Ten’s non-private institutions.

In July, university trustees agreed to raise 2022-23 University Park tuition rates by 6% for Pennsylvania resident undergraduates and 6% for non-Pennsylvania resident undergraduates. Commonwealth Campus tuition increased by 2% and 3% for in-state and out-of-state undergraduates, respectively.

Penn State students whose families annually earn $75,000 or less will receive grants to offset tuition increases, keeping rates flat for the 2022-23 year.