With less state money coming in, Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh are bolstering their budgets by enrolling out-of-state students who pay higher tuition.
School records show the ratio of out-of-state freshmen at the universities' main campuses increased over the past decade, from 37 percent to 40 percent at Penn State and from 17 percent to 35 percent at Pitt. That coincides with a 27 percent reduction in subsidies for Pennsylvania's four state-related universities -- Pitt, Penn State, Temple and Lincoln -- since 2001-02.
Out-of-state students pay full tuition and fees; the state subsidizes resident tuition at the schools.
The difference, according to forms the universities submit to the U.S. Department of Education, is stunning: $24,680 a year for out- of-state undergraduate tuition at Pitt, compared to $15,272 for Pennsylvania residents; at Penn State, $27,206 for out-of-state students, compared to $15,124 for residents.
Julia Gitelman, a Mt. Lebanon senior with a 4.0 grade average and 1,970 SAT score, said Pitt disappointed her by deferring her application. The school asked for an additional reference and to inspect her most recent grades. She said Pitt rejected one of her friends and referred another to a branch campus.
"I applied in early November. Both of my parents are Pitt alumni. I have aunts and uncles who went to Pitt," said Gitelman. "Pitt was my first choice."
University spokesmen insist residency plays no role in admissions.
"Admissions are based upon the academic profile and credentials of the student. There are no quotas or caps based on the residency of the student," Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said.
She said 21,000 out-of-state students applied to attend at University Park in 2011, compared to 16,000 Pennsylvanians.
At Pitt, where the number of applications increased from 20,639, in 2008 to 23,409 in 2011, officials tout the university's standards.
"The increase in out-of-state enrollment is attributable to Pitt's growing national and international reputation and to our aggressive pursuit of high-quality students nationally and internationally," spokesman John Fedele said.
Benjamin Rush, a senior from Cincinnati, said that's what drew him to Pitt, where he majors in economics and urban studies.
"I've been involved with the Honors College. I really enjoyed it," Rush said.
Crunch for students
Tara Leja, a guidance counselor at Mt. Lebanon High School, noticed Pitt raised the bar for admission about four years ago.
"I used to be able to say, 'If you have a 3.6 (grade average), you're on track to get into Pitt.' Now I tell them they need at least a 3.8, and in 2011 we had a student with a 4.1 and a 1,600 on his SAT denied at Pitt," she said.
It couldn't come at a worse time for students who want to hold down college costs.
"The economy is a huge factor in these decisions now, and you can see the kids wanting to stay in-state and save the big bucks for later on for med school or graduate school," Leja said. …