Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

State System Board Said It Hadto Raise Tuition

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

State System Board Said It Hadto Raise Tuition

Article excerpt

As it pondered another tuition increase, the board overseeing Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities found itself in a familiar but uncomfortable place Thursday, just a day after a consultant warned the status-quo must change.

Board member after board member lamented the idea of further burdening tens of thousands of students across a system where enrollment already has fallen. Yet they voted to do it anyway, saying their cash-starved universities could not afford to fill a $72 million budget gap exclusively with a new round of budget cuts.

With their state near last in subsidies for higher education, some on the board of governors characterized Thursday's 3.5 percent, or $254 yearly, increase in the base tuition for 2017-18 as simply being realistic.

"We can't expect a truck to be backed up with enough money from the state to solve all our problems," said board member Thomas Muller, the Lehigh County executive.

But while the vote was unanimous, it sparked familiar criticism in a board room that seemed to harbor leftover tension from a consultant's blunt assessment Wednesday of the system's enrollment and financial predicament and the varied causes, including what it said was flawed governance.

In comments to the board, the head of the faculty union reiterated the charge that students are being priced out of system of universities that by state law are supposed to ensure an affordable education.

"... A 3.5 percent increase in tuition and corresponding fees - plus whatever increases are passed on campus - does make a difference to the lives of working families," Kenneth Mash, president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, said in prepared remarks. "It is not an increase in isolation; it is an increase that builds on consecutive increases."

A faculty union leader from Kutztown University spoke of a lack of mutual respect. Waving a collective bargaining agreement in her hand, she said labor wanted an equal place at the table in deciding the system's response to recommendations for change by the consultant, the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems. …

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