Originally published on StateCollege.com.
Just one day after a historic proposal that included the lowest increase in Penn State tuition in 48 years, President Eric Barron went even further, offering a tuition freeze.
Barron’s operating budget and tuition schedule proposal for the 2015-16 academic year, which the board will vote on later in Friday’s meeting, includes no increase in tuition for in-state undergraduate students.
“Our number one priority continues to be a commitment to keeping tuition and fee increases at the lowest level possible without compromising academic quality,” Barron said. “Internal reallocations, targeted budget reductions, strong enrollment, and delayed planned investments and Commonwealth and Penn State priorities have allowed us to propose a base tuition increase for Pennsylvania undergraduate students at zero percent, which is an historic event for this university.”
The announcement received an emphatic round of applause from the trustees at the meeting held on the Penn State Beaver campus. The proposal also includes 2.84 percent base aggregate increase for out-of-state students at the university along with a freeze on the Information Technology Fee for the first time in two decades. Barron intends to drive down that fee, which is currently $504, and eventually eliminate it.
“I will say here personally that I could drive down the cost of this degree and the American public would give Penn State no credit because of the way it’s reported, and thats because we have to be very cognizant that tuition is what everyone talks about,” Barron said. “The cost of a degree is what everybody should be talking about. And this is a particular case where we are actually driving down the cost of a degree.”
The budget proposal is guided by a number of key criteria that Barron deemed most important to the university and students, the first of which was a tuition increase that is either low or flat. If the proposal is adopted by the board, that goal will be met.
“The second is to stimulate Pennsylvania’s economy and student career success, building on the momentum of Invent Penn State and Penn State’s $30 million investment in this area,” Barron said. “The best thing for this Commonwealth, the best thing for this University, the best things for our students is for us to use our $800 million research machine to promote economic development of this state, to attract people to this state, to have the people in this state have better jobs, and in turn, to reinvest in public higher education.”
Barron notes that this budget provides stresses, but is hopeful that with hard work to promote a higher state appropriation the university will be successful in driving down the cost of a degree. The current budget assumes a conservative estimate of a three percent increase in state appropriation, though the board’s finance committee sees that as the worst case scenario.
Trustee Anthony Lubrano offered his thoughts on the tuition freeze, which he said is the result of some extended discussion during the board’s executive session this morning.
“I know this morning was a bit challenging,” Lubrano said. “I want to also applaud and thank my colleagues on this board because the general public doesn’t know this, but I will share with them that today, in large part thanks to our new members, we had the most constructive discussion and debate in my three years, and I hope that’s a sign of things to come.”