With flat state funding, Pa. colleges plan tuition increases/cuts

Hold on to your wallets, college students.

Pennsylvania’s 14 state universities will have a $58 million shortfall to address in its $1.56 billion budget if the state spending plan is signed into law by Gov. Corbett as it stands. The plan includes flat funding for most higher education institutions, including the state system.

“That likely will involve some amount of tuition increase, combined with budget cuts across the system, which the individual universities will determine,” said Kenn Marshall, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

Just how much will come in tuition and how much in budget cuts is uncertain.

“This board has been pretty committed to keeping tuition increases to around the rate of inflation, which would be about 3 percent,” Marshall said last week. “If it did that, it would require additional budget cuts to erase the shortfall.”

The system’s board of governors will meet next week to vote on the 2014-15 operating budget and set the tuition rates. Students currently pay about $17,000 annually in tuition, fees and room and board.

The system had requested a four percent increase in state funding and $18 million for new program development. Under the budget, it would get about $412 million, same as it has for the last three years. The 14 state system schools are: Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester.

Pennsylvania State University also would have a hole to close. It has requested a $14.7 million funding increase from the state. As of now, however, it stands to receive $231.7 million, which includes a $2 million increase for the College of Technology in Williamsport.

A spokeswoman offered no speculation on what would happen if the university didn’t get the money. But former President Rodney Erickson told lawmakers in February that the university would be hard-pressed to hold off larger tuition increases than last year’s 2.76 percent without the boost.

Penn State’s board also is scheduled to meet next week action on its budget and tuition is expected.

In-state students attending Penn State’s main campus paid $26,362 in tuition, fees and room and board last year.

Not all state-affiliated universities are banking on an increase.

Temple University is building its budget based on flat state funding, officials said. The university has trimmed $113 million from its operating budget over the last five years as state funding has waned. Temple would receive $139.9 million under the plan, same as last year.

“Temple is pleased with the overwhelming bipartisan support it received in both the Pennsylvania House and Senate,” said Kenneth E. Lawrence Jr., senior vice president for government, community and public affairs at Temple. “Temple’s state appropriation is the single most important factor in keeping tuition affordable for our students from Pennsylvania.”

Lincoln University, which would get the same $13.2 million as last year, declined comment.

The state’s community colleges would see a slight increase in funding, to $215.7 million — a $3.5 million rise.