Board Of Trustees Moves To Freeze Tuition, Lower Room & Board, Diversify Membership

Penn State’s Board of Trustees met virtually Friday afternoon to approve a number of proposals including a university-wide tuition freeze, lowered room and board rates for the fall semester, and a commitment to diversifying its membership.

The board’s approved tuition freeze will apply to all undergraduate and graduate students, both in and out of state. This is now the third consecutive year Penn State has frozen tuition rates for in-state students.

During the Board of Trustees’ Committee on Finance, Business and Capital Planning’s meeting Thursday, budget officer Mary Lou Ortiz reiterated tuition rates will remain the same regardless of how classes are taught this fall. If students were to return home and finish the fall or spring semester remotely, tuition wouldn’t be refunded in any way.

Although Penn State plans to return to in-person instruction this fall, it noted it’s prepared to revert to remote learning at any time should it need to as the coronavirus pandemic continues to worsen. This week, Penn State estimated around 47% of its courses will be taught in-person in one way or another this fall.

The tuition freeze comes as part of the university’s adopted $7 billion budget for the 2020-2021 academic year. The operating budget, which includes $7,090,752 in expenditures and $6,965,062 in revenues, is up $200 million from last year,

“Maintaining the accessibility and affordability of a Penn State education are long-term university priorities, and given the current economic hardships induced by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is particularly important that we not raise our tuition rates for the upcoming academic year,” Barron said in a statement. “Despite the challenging fiscal environment across higher education, I’m pleased that we have been able to put forth a University budget that provides a measure of financial relief for our students and supports their continued academic success.”

Additionally, the board approved lowered room and board rates for the fall semester. As recommended by a committee Thursday, the cheaper rates will address students’ shortened on-campus residence this fall, as they’ll head home by November 22 when Penn State moves to remote learning after Thanksgiving.

Example rates for a mid-level meal plan and traditional double

Students living in a standard double room with a mid-level meal plan will see an $863 reduction from previously approved rates in February. These rates are 11.7% lower than last fall’s rates.

The figures were calculated by converting February’s pre-pandemic rate into a daily rate and multiplying that daily rate by the number of days students would be on campus this fall. This is the same process the university used to calculate housing contract refunds this spring.

Specific rates for each campus, meal plan, and housing option will be available on Housing’s website in the coming days.

Last, the Board of Trustees introduced a proposal setting the goal of populating at least 50% of the board with members who are from “racial, ethnic, and gender underrepresented populations” by 2025. Although some members raised concerns surrounding the resolution’s language, the measure passed.

Currently, 32% of the board’s 38 seats are occupied by underrepresented groups.

“I believe it’s important that we model inclusivity and embrace the power of diversity and belonging,” Board of Trustees Chair Mark H. Dambly said. “The board is resolute in its commitment to work with President Barron in our efforts to make Penn State the most inclusive and diverse community that we possibly can — one that is free of discrimination; one that embraces differences; and one that respects all individuals.”

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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