Editor’s note: The headline on this article was updated on Feb. 28 to state that the Council of Trustees approved to send a tuition increase to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Board of Governors for final approval. The original headline implied that the Council of Trustees proposed a tuition change when the SRU administration actually proposes these changes.
Slippery Rock University’s Council of Trustees voted to advance the proposed tuition pricing and financial aid plan to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s Board of Governors. If the proposal is approved, it will go into effect for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 academic years.
SRU President William Behre said that tuition is proposed to increase by 3.5%. He said, however, that most other fees are being held constant, meaning that the average student increase will be much less than 3.5%.
“It is very important to remember that tuition is only part of a student’s costs,” Behre said. “There are also fees as well as room and board for students who live on campus.”
He said that if you include this year, over three years, the tuition proposal will raise the average bill of a resident by only 1.3%. Behre said that most of the increase will go to pay salaries. About 80% of the university’s costs are salaries. He said the remainder will go to fund the increases in student aid.
“This year, SRU is investing more than $7.6 million in financial aid,” Behre said.
He said that by the 2021-2022 academic year, they intend to invest more than $8.5 million in aid.
“Even though I think SRU is an incredible value and well worth the cost, I understand that affording it can be very challenging for many of our students,” Behre said.
He said that the issues with student debt are a lot more complex than the sound bites we hear on the news and in the political campaign. About 40% of the student loan totals are often quoted in the media for graduate school, even though only 15% of all students are graduate students, Behre mentioned.
“Figures that are quoted by politicians and in the media include people paying for medical school and law school,” Behre said. “Students in those programs routinely rack up six figures in debt, which confounds the undergraduate picture a bunch.”
Behre said that the typical student debt for an SRU graduate is about $35,322. The Pennsylvania average student debt is $37,061, which is more than the national average.
“Pennsylvania supports higher education at a lower level than most other states, and this means that the Pennsylvania legislature has made a policy decision to pass much of the cost of higher education onto the students,” Behre said. “By extension, the citizens of PA have made this decision since they elected the legislature. If students want that to change, they should use their power at the ballot box.”
He said that the college-aged demographic is terrible about voting, making it easier for legislators to overlook them.
Compared to the other PASSHE schools, Behre said that SRU is currently the second least expensive school in the system.
“Some schools charge by the credit, while others like SRU charge a flat rate for full-time undergraduates,” Behre said.
He said that currently the cost of attendance for a resident student at SRU is just under $21,000 and the most expensive school in the system charges just under $26,000.
Behre said that aside from the proposed increase of 3.5% over each of the next two years, they hope to be able to bring the increases closer to the consumer price index after that. Behre emphasized the importance of this tuition increase but noted that the big decisions are made at a state level.
“Having students bear the brunt of their educational burden is a policy decision made at the state level,” Behre said. “If students really want to address this issue, they should meet with their state legislatures and vote in larger numbers.”