Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released the results today of an audit he announced last summer to evaluate Penn State’s overall performance and implementation of recommendations following the Sandusky scandal. While DePasquale admits the university has adopted significant change since an original set of recommendations released from the office in 2012, he reported the change is not enough, recommending Penn State take 23 additional actions.
A central theme to the auditor’s report is Penn State’s tuition increases, specifically in the past 30 years. “Penn State also must do whatever is necessary to control tuition, which increased 535 percent in 30 years — making the school increasingly unaffordable for middle-income Pennsylvanians — and improve the university’s transparency and accountability to taxpayers,” DePasquale said in a press release.
The following are graphics comparing tuition rates compiled by the auditor’s office:
DePasquale also criticized the university’s practice of accepting out-of-state students, accusing Penn State of giving these students preference “as a means of increasing tuition revenue.” It’s worth emphasizing here that out-of-state students pay higher tuition rates at nearly every public university across the country, not just at Penn State or in Pennsylvania.
“At Penn State, and at many other public research institutions, nonresidents pay nearly twice as much as residents in tuition — yet it costs nothing more to educate these students. In essence then, a university can get a ‘better bang for the buck’ by increasing the number of its nonresident students,” DePasquale said. “Rather than increasing nonresident enrollments, another alternative is to better control tuition cost drivers. If these expenses are adequately controlled, it should then slow the growth of tuition.”
DePasquale calls the university to create a task force “with a focus on identifying and lowering costs that are driving tuition into the stratosphere.”
“Penn State’s expansion of nonresident enrollment threatens accessibility for Pennsylvania residents,” DePasquale said. “Clearly, because Penn State has not adequately planned for expenses that are outpacing revenues, there is a financial appeal to accepting nonresident students who will pay nearly $15,000 more and be more likely to live on campus.”
He also referenced a similar state auditor concern brought up in California this year that eventually led to the University of California system approving an enrollment cap for out-of-state students.
“A nonresident undergraduate student enrollment cap may well be necessary to help ensure Pennsylvania residents can get into Penn State, or any other state-related university for that matter,” he said. “These institutions are called state-related for a reason: Pennsylvania taxpayers help fund their operations. Therefore, Pennsylvania students should always be at the top of the acceptance list.”
You can read the Auditor General’s full report here.