Penn State mulls tuition and fee increases

Pennsylvania State University is looking for ways to raise tuition revenue, in part due to waning state support.

At a meeting of the board of trustees’ finance committee on Thursday morning, the university’s budget task force presented a variety of proposals to raise fees, add surcharges and increase tuition differentials based on program, number of credits and year in school. Nursing, engineering and the sciences are among the programs that already carry tuition differentials.

There’s also a proposal to assess a fee on international students of $500 per semester and $360 per summer.

Juniors and seniors would be impacted more than their younger counterparts.

If all the proposals were adopted, it could bring in $33.8 million in the first year, officials said.

“We have to look for other sources of revenue to replace state cuts,” said Susan Welch, dean of the college of liberal arts and chair of the tuition subcommittee of the task force.

But the proposals, she said, also reflect practices and costs charged by peer institutions.

“The overarching view is that tuition should follow cost and demand a little more than it does,” she said.

Some programs are more costly than others to provide, explained David Gray, senior vice president for finance and business.

“Others are simply high demand programs that could bear to carry a higher market price,” he said.

But the proposals aren’t likely to become reality any time soon based on the reaction from trustees, who asked a lot of questions and expressed some concerns. Trustees plan to continue discussion at meetings after the New Year.

Keith Masser, chair of the board, disagreed with a proposal to charge students 50 percent more per credit for every credit over 19 per semester.

Gray said other peer universities use such a surcharge.

“You’re punishing someone who is wanting to get an education more quickly and get out into the work force,” he said. “I’m having a hard time understanding that…I would be more inclined to go the other way.”

Charge those who lag and take longer and leave the “go-getters” alone, he suggested.

Trustee Barbara Doran agreed: “People are here to learn.”

A student member of the board said he’s concerned about a proposal to charge more for some professional master’s programs than others. A student shouldn’t have to make a career choice based on cost, he said.

Board member William Oldsey said the proposals contain a lot of different fee and tuition increases, but trustees need to know what the overall impact will be.

“What is a typical undergraduate going to be paying,” he said.

Penn State raised base tuition 3.39 percent this year for in-state students on the main campus and hiked room and board 4.2 percent. In-state students on the main campus are paying $26,362 this year.


“We certainly hear the concerns,” Gray said, promising to provide more information. “…We’ll be in conversation with a lot of people.”

Among the proposals is a recommendation to raise the IT fees, which could bring in $2.6 million.

The committee also recommended against removing a tuition and fee waiver for employees of 75 percent.