Pennsylvania gave the system overseeing its state universities a more than 15%, or $75 million, increase in base funding, the largest one-time increase since the system was established in 1983, officials said. university officials.
And it will pay off for students, allowing universities to freeze tuition and fees for a fourth straight year, despite inflation — a move that comes as many other colleges hike costs.
Pennsylvania state’s higher education system voted earlier this year to freeze tuition and fees as long as the legislature accepts its request for funding.
READ MORE: Pennsylvania State Universities Freeze Tuition for Fourth Straight Year
Chancellor Daniel Greenstein said Friday the tuition freeze will stay on the books, as the system’s base funding allocation will increase to $552.5 million. The freeze is in effect for the 10 universities in the system, which include six schools that were integrated into two from July 1 as part of a plan to deal with a huge drop in enrolment.
The system, Greenstein said, will also receive $125 million in one-time stimulus funds to help it continue to redesign how its schools operate and deliver education, including focusing on achievement gaps, rates graduation and retention and workforce development.
Greenstein said he sees the funding hike as a sign of increased political confidence in state universities, something he’s been working to build since joining in 2018. The system’s decision to merge universities in Bloomsburg, Mansfield, and Lock Haven, and California, Clarion, and Edinboro were part of an overall effort to show lawmakers that he intended to operate more efficiently. Other universities in the system include Cheyney, West Chester, East Stroudsburg, Kutztown, Indiana, Slippery Rock, Shippensburg, and Millersville.
READ MORE: Merger of six Pennsylvania State universities approved, biggest change in system’s history
“It’s great for Pennsylvanians,” Greenstein said. “They now have access to continuous, affordable higher education that leads to great jobs and great careers.”
But the funding news was not so rosy for so-called state-linked universities, which are partly private. Temple, Pennsylvania State University, University of Pittsburgh and Lincoln University will receive the same amount as last year.
While saying it was grateful for the funding, Temple University in a statement noted that this was the fourth consecutive year of fixed funding. The university will receive $158.2 million.
“It’s especially difficult in a year with inflation levels near record highs,” the school said.
Temple administrators meeting next week are expected to set tuition fees for next year. it is not clear if or what impact the state budget will have on their decision-making.
Penn State’s Board of Directors will meet later this month to do the same. While the university’s base stipend will remain at $242.1 million, the school said it will get a 5% or $2.7 million increase in research and extension funding. and for the first time $2.35 million for Invent Penn State, a seven-year initiative designed to further stimulate economic development and entrepreneurial activity.
Still no increase in the base allocation poses a challenge, said Neeli Bendapudi, Penn State’s new president. Penn State last got a 2% raise in 2019-20.
“Inflationary pressures, revenue losses due to the pandemic, changing demographics and other cost-inducing factors, coupled with successive years of fixed funding, pose significant challenges for the university and will require us to take a deep look our budget and spending over the coming year,” she said.
Late last month, Republican lawmakers attempted to block funding for the four state-linked universities unless each agreed to swear under oath that they would not use fetal tissue from an elected abortion for research. The problem stems from ongoing complaints from abortion opponents that Pitt conducts such research. School funding, however, was passed without such a requirement.
Some local universities and private schools in New Jersey have announced plans to raise tuition. The University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers both announced they would raise costs by 2.9%. At Rowan, tuition and fees will increase by 4%.
But in-state students at Pennsylvania State Universities will not see such increases. In-state students, who make up the vast majority of the system’s 88,651 students, will continue to pay $7,716 in annual tuition and technology fees of $478. (Out-of-state tuition is set by individual campuses. Technology fees for out-of-state students are $728.)
The system will also use the funding to increase its financial aid budget from about $100 million to $120 million to $130 million, Greenstein said.
But the system did not get everything it asked for. A request for $200 million that would have gone directly to student financial aid was not included in the state spending plan. This would have allowed the system to reduce tuition fees by $2,000 to $6,000, depending on whether the system targeted the money only at students from low-income families or at a broader group that was also interested in career fields in need, Greenstein said.
READ MORE: Pennsylvania State Universities to seek 15% funding boost, plus more money for student aid
“We’re going to keep fighting for the other piece,” Greenstein said. “At some point we have to tackle the issue of affordability,”
But the money the Legislature has provided will allow universities to avoid devastating tuition cuts or increases, though Greenstein has made it clear that schools with declining enrollment will need to continue to adapt.
At present, he forecasts the system to remain stable for 2022-23 or perhaps drop by a percentage point. But there are variations between schools, he said. The system has lost more than a quarter of its workforce since 2010.
The budget also includes a 6.6% increase in state grants to eligible students through the Higher Education Support Agency.