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Penn State Aims To Freeze In-State Tuition With Appropriation Request

by Geoff Rushton

Last year, Penn State leaders attempted to secure an appropriation that would have frozen tuition for all of its Pennsylvania resident undergraduates.

They’ll try again this year.

The Board of Trustees Committee on Finance, Business and Capital Planning voted to recommend a 2017-18 state appropriation request of $350.5 million, including a $25.3 million increase for its general appropriation line, which directly impacts tuition. The overall appropriation request would be a nearly $35 million increase over what the university received for the current budget year, though it’s about $3 million less than what Penn State requested for 2016-17.

Penn State had an aggregate base tuition increase of 1.76 percent for in-state undergraduates and 3.17 percent for out-of-state students for 2016-17 and froze tuition for Pennsylvania undergrads in 2015-16.

The full board will vote on the proposed request — which also includes appropriations for Pennsylvania College of Technology, Agricultural Research and Extension and the Penn State Hershey Medical Center — at Friday’s meeting at the Penn Stater Conference.

The 11 percent increase in the education and general appropriation would be combined with what President Eric Barron called a “stretch goal” of $26 million in budget savings to hold tuition for Pennsylvania undergraduates flat.

“This is an honest statement to the governor and legislators [who are all] interested in access and affordability,” Barron said. “We need to be straightforward. Everyone wants a 0 percent increase what take.”

Barron said a 0 percent tuition increase without new revenue would result in a $70 million loss.

University Budget Officer Rachel Smith said the general support request includes a $2 million increase for new student aid, as well as money for salary, health care and state retirement increases, and funding for strategic initiatives, innovation projects and new facilities.

The appropriation request will be sent to the state Department of Education as the first step in the budget process, and Smith said university leaders expect to have ongoing discussions with state officials. A final university budget including tuition rates for 2017-18 will be set in July.

Penn State also will submit a capital budget request of $148.2 million for construction and equipment. The projects include a classroom building at Penn State Abington, renovations to Hosler Building at University Park, expansion and renovation of the Nursing Sciences Building at University Park, and renovation of Vairo Library at Penn State Brandywine.

The request is submitted annually to the state Department of Education and includes construction projects identified as priorities for which Penn State is seeking authorization by the state legislature for later funding by the governor.

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