Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

State System Board Narrowly Oks Tuition Freeze If Wolf's Plan Passes

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

State System Board Narrowly Oks Tuition Freeze If Wolf's Plan Passes

Article excerpt

Gov. Tom Wolf may have enlisted a new army in an uphill battle to secure passage of his first commonwealth budget - namely thousands of state university students and their families seeking rare tuition relief.

That's because the board overseeing the 14 state-owned universities voted its intent Thursday to freeze tuition this fall for the first time since 1998, provided the governor's double- digit boost in campus aid contained in his proposed spending plan passes the Legislature.

The State System of Higher Education's board of governors also added a caveat - that any tuition level is still subject to final board determination at a later date.

The vote was 9-8, revealing sharp divisions within the board. Some said they thought a Wolf aide had, in effect, threatened the board a day earlier by calling support for a freeze "a test of accountability" and saying the governor could not continue pushing for such a large budget increase without it.

The $45.3 million, or 11 percent, increase would be the largest in State System history and the first in seven years. With potential for a similar jump the following year, the system could largely recoup deep cuts that have driven aid levels back to 1997- 98 levels.

In a statement, Mr. Wolf praised the vote. "Students have borne the brunt of massive cuts over the last four years and today's action is an important step in giving them a break from constantly rising college costs," it read. "I am hopeful that the Legislature will step up and deliver on this investment in higher education ..."

A freeze in 2015-16 would keep base yearly in-state tuition at $6,820 across the 110,000-student system, including California, Clarion, Edinboro, Indiana and Slippery Rock universities in Western Pennsylvania. The freeze resolution was introduced by state Rep. Michael Hanna, D-Clinton, a board member. …

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