2009-11-12 / Local & State

Penn St. Says Midyear Tuition Hike Very Unlikely

By Genaro C. Armas ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) – Penn State’s president wants to avoid raising tuition at midyear, but stopped short of promising against a rate hike as the university awaits its long-delayed state funding.

About $334 million in state subsidies for Penn State is stuck in legislative gridlock as lawmakers try to resolve differences on a bill to legalize and tax table games at the state’s slot-machine casinos.

Penn State and leaders of the commonwealth’s other state-related institutions – Lincoln, Pitt and Temple – said in a letter last month to top state officials that the funding held up for months must be approved soon or it might lead to unforeseen tuition hikes for the spring semester.

The spring bill at Penn State will be sent out soon, president Graham Spanier said.

“We will not do that except under the most dire of circumstances.’’

Tuition varies according to class year, campus and, in some cases, major. Currently, a full-time, in-state freshman or sophomore at Penn State’s main campus pays $6,800 per semester, while an outof state freshman or sophomore pays nearly twice that at more than $12,500.

Spanier said tuition rates should remain stable if the university receives the Senate-approved funding of $334 million, though that could change if the full Legislature decides to slash that amount.

“This great challenge is not just a challenge to the university, but a challenge to the 94,000 students and their families,’’ trustee Keith Eckel said. “That is a difficult situation to be in.’’

Students at the other state-related schools apparently face similar scenarios. School officials have not said if, or how high they would raise tuition bills.

Funding limbo for the current school year also forced trustees to table discussion again on its state appropriations request for the 2010-11 academic year. That request is typically submitted in September.

Trustees did OK a hike in room and board rates for next academic year to cover increased operating and maintenance costs. The average rate will be $4,185 per semester, an increase of $100 or more than 2.4 percent from this year.

Penn State said it was the smallest increase in room and board in a decade.

Enrollment across the university system is up 1.8 percent to more than 94,300, though much of that growth is due to students taking classes online. Applications are up to a record 109,031, with much of the growth in out-of-state and international applications.

Requests for financial aid are also up amid the uncertain economic climate, said Anna Griswold, an assistant vice president. About 75 percent of undergraduate students applied for some form of financial assistance in the past year, compared with 66 percent a decade earlier.

Also Friday, Spanier reported that there have been about 2,000 diagnosed cases of swine flu at the university, or roughly 250 new cases per week, though the number seems to have leveled off in recent weeks. And, trustees approved final plans for a new children’s hospital to be built on the campus of the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey.

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