Finance Committee Passes Lowest Tuition Increase in 48 Years

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The Penn State Board of Trustees will have some serious numbers to mull over on Friday.

The board’s finance committee passed an operating budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year and the tuition schedule on Thursday morning.

Students are never happy to hear about a tuition raise, but the minimal increase passed by the committee are just about on par with inflation.

The proposal includes a 1.99 percent increase for in-state residents, the lowest such increase since 1967, nearly five decades ago. President Eric Barron previously promised not to increase tuition at eight of the university’s commonwealth campuses.

As for the non-Pennsylvania students attending Penn State, their tuition will increase by 2.84 percent for the 2015-16 academic year if adopted by the full board at Friday’s meeting.

While the $4.9 billion budget passed by the committee on Thursday is subject to change based on how large the state appropriation is, the tuition rates will be set in stone if the board votes them in. The full budget, however, is based on a conservative estimate of a three percent increase in state funding. Governor Tom Wolf and the state legislature are locked in a battle to pass the state budget.

“It is our goal to ensure that Pennsylvanians from all walks of life have the opportunity to receive a world-class Penn State education,” Barron said. “We are committed to access and affordability, and the recommended operating budget, tuition and fees have been designed with that commitment in mind.”

The budget includes $33.4 million in cost savings for the coming year and implements a freeze on the information technology fee charged to students, the first time in 20 years that it won’t raise.

The committee’s budget plans were largely based on a set of goals and initiatives deemed to be important. Those include minimal tuition increases, investing in student entrepreneurship, a focus on affordability, and compensating faculty to retain Penn State’s academic standing and reputation.

Barron says he also wants to make sure students are getting a degree in four years, emphasizing that tuition freezes or low increases are important but only matter if students aren’t spending an extra semester, year, or more at the university.

“In addition to the important budget and tuition packages recommended today, my administration continues to¬†pursue practical initiatives¬†to help increase retention and graduation rates while decreasing student borrowing and ultimately the cost of a degree,” he said.

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Zach Berger

Zach Berger is a StateCollege.com reporter and Onward State's Managing Editor Emeritus. You can find him at the Phyrst more nights than not. If he had to pick a last meal, Zach would go for a medium-rare New York strip steak with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and a cold BrewDog Punk IPA. You can reach him via e-mail at [email protected] or on Twitter at @theZachBerger.

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