Pennsylvania Capitol Building in Harrisburg, Pa. (Photo by Amanda Berg for the Capital-Star).
Pennsylvania lawmakers likely won’t solve the budget impasse before schools return this fall, forcing some of the four state-related universities to approve tuition increases for the upcoming year.
A two-thirds majority vote is required to approve funding for Lincoln University, Pennsylvania State University, Temple University, and the University of Pittsburgh.
Democratic lawmakers have argued that additional funding would help lower tuition rates and alleviate student debt. Republicans have opposed the increase and pushed for tuition freezes and transparency reforms, like making state-related schools subject to the Right-to-Know Law.
Before lawmakers left Harrisburg for summer break without approving spending for the four institutions, Democrats in the House, who maintained a one-vote majority until last week, introduced standalone bills to direct funds for each school. The only one to pass applied to Lincoln and allocated $16 million to the school. However, the university won’t see the funding unless the Senate approves the bill.
House lawmakers later introduced a bill that included roughly $640 million — a 7% increase from last year — for the state-related universities in one proposal. That legislation failed by six votes, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle assigning blame for the impasse and returning home, resulting in a budget impasse predominantly caused by disagreement over a private school voucher program.
The Republican-controlled Senate returns to session on Sept. 18, and the House, now without a majority party, reconvenes on Sept. 26. If they finish the budgetary process when they return, the spending plan will be nearly three months past the June 30 deadline.
When lawmakers finalize the spending plan and code bills, which direct state spending, and send a budget to Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro’s desk for approval, Pennsylvania schools will have already started the academic year.
Tuition at Lincoln University remains unchanged for next year, but the school — which enrolls roughly 1,700 undergraduate students and under 200 graduate students — is monitoring the impasse and watching university spending.
“As the first degree-granting HBCU in the country, Lincoln University is all about creating opportunity for students through education, and that opportunity is hanging in the balance,” Lincoln University President Brenda Allen told the Capital-Star. “We’re closely managing our budget and watching the conversation in the Legislature as it unfolds.”
Last year, tuition for in-state students cost $11,566 and $17,912 for out-of-state students.
Pennsylvania State University
First-years and sophomores at Penn State’s main campus, based in Centre County, will pay $19,672 in annual tuition after the board of trustees approved a 2% increase as part of a two-year fiscal plan this month.
Juniors and seniors will also see a tuition increase; rates vary by their academic program.
“We are in continued conversations with the Legislature, and we remain hopeful that state leaders will pass our funding bill with the increase that Gov. Shapiro has proposed, as this funding is vital to students and families across Pennsylvania,” Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi said in a statement.
In-state students at the university’s 19 branch campuses will not see a tuition increase, with existing rates spanning roughly $14,000 to $16,000.
“Despite not knowing what our appropriation will be, university operations must be maintained, which is why we are moving forward with our budget as planned — with the caveat that some critical steps must wait so that we can meet our commitment to our Pennsylvania resident students,” Bendapudi said.
The university said it plans to direct other funding sources to cover in-state tuition costs for the more than 42,000 Pennsylvania resident students, including pausing a planned general salary increase for employees.
Temple University’s Board of Trustees approved a blended 4.2% increase for 2023-24 undergraduate and graduate base tuition for in-state students. Out-of-state students will see a blended 4.4% tuition increase.
Base tuition per semester for Pennsylvania residents is $8,988 and $16,188 for out-of-state residents.
Enrollment at the university is about 33,600 — 24,349 in-state students and 9,257 out-of-state students — with 66% of students being Pennsylvania residents.
In a statement issued last week, the university said inflation, increased operating costs, and years-long flat funding from the state contributed to the decision.
“It’s important to us that the burden of the increasing costs of higher education does not fall solely on our students,” Ken Kaiser, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Temple University, said. “We have taken significant steps to trim the budget while also being cognizant of the need not to disrupt or potentially negatively impact the student-centered education that is core to Temple’s identity.”
The university said it uses the state appropriation to address affordability and accessibility for Pennsylvania residents, doubling the value of the state funding to provide every in-state student a tuition discount of roughly $13,000.
Temple plans to cut its budget by 4.6% — more than $57 million — to reduce tuition cuts for the 2023-24 academic year.
“As a state-related institution without a large endowment, our operating budget is almost entirely driven by tuition revenue as the appropriation provides only about 15% of our revenue,” Kaiser said. “Despite the tuition increase, Temple’s access-driven mission remains as strong as ever, and a large portion of the university’s tuition revenue will be used to assist students in need.”
The University of Pittsburgh
Tuition at Pitt — which had just under 20,000 undergraduate students enrolled at its Oakland campus last fall — varies depending on residency and program of study. In-state tuition can cost anywhere from $19,700 to $24,800. Out-of-state students pay between $36,000 and $45,000 in tuition.
Classes for the fall semester begin on Aug. 28. The university’s board of trustees meets on July 26 at 10:30 a.m. and could decide tuition for the upcoming academic year.
The budget impasse has created “uncertainty” for Pitt students, a university spokesperson told the Capital-Star, citing the inability of the House to pass a proposal that would result in roughly $16,000 in annual tuition savings for in-state students.
“The Pitt community is watching the situation carefully and is very concerned about the impact of the Legislature’s actions, not just on our university, but on the entire state-related system in Pennsylvania,” Jared Stonesifer said. “The 60-year partnership between the commonwealth and our university is being jeopardized by the Legislature’s inaction on providing funds to reduce tuition for Pennsylvania students and their families.”
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