Students across the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), including Slippery Rock University will not see a tuition increase for the fourth year in a row after the Board of Governors voted for another freeze on April 14.
The hold on increasing tuition, and subsequently the technology fee, by the state system, comes a few months after Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced his budget proposal.
That proposal includes $552 million in appropriation to PASSHE, $2 million more than what was requested by the system’s Board of Governors back in October.
Although the budget has not yet been approved, Chancellor Dan Greenstein made the recommendation to the Board with students in mind.
“The students we serve are already struggling with the net price to attend, which are already high,” Greenstein said.
He added that the system is working with its owners, the Commonwealth, to see the proposed investment by the governor through.
Along with the proposed appropriation, Wolf has proposed $200 million for the Nellie Bly Scholarship Program. That program would provide direct financial support to Pennsylvanians that choose to attend either a community college or PASSHE university.
“A good education can set a person up for a lifetime of success, but pursuing that education can often be a dream out of reach as costs skyrocket and student debt looms,” Wolf said in a statement Feb. 16. “Let’s help Pennsylvania students succeed and put money back into the economy, instead of shouldering them with debt equal to a down payment on a new home.”
The approval of the tuition freeze could be a gamble for some of the system’s universities. Back in December, Slippery Rock University President William Behre recommended to the Council of Trustees a 2% increase in tuition.
In November, before the governor’s budget proposal was announced, Behre told the Slippery Rock Student Government Association (SRSGA) that without a 2% increase, the university could be faced with a $4 million funding gap.
After some discussion on the matter, SRU’s Trustees narrowly passed the proposal 6 to 5.
At the Board of Governors meeting, Behre rescinded that request with the budget proposal in mind.
Behre added that without a tuition increase and investment by the state, the financial aid the university has invested heavily in during his tenure would have to see cuts.
“It’s nice to say there’s no tuition increase,” Behre told the Board of Governors. “But actually, the cost to students will go up, particularly the most needy students because they won’t get the financial aid.
“The sticker price is not what needy students pay, it’s the net price.”
In addition to financial aid, other programs at SRU designed to help students succeed academically and care for their mental health would also need to be cut, if the budget proposal were to be reduced, Behre said.
“Our schools will not be what they are today, and opportunities will disappear,” Behre said.
Pennsylvania State Rep. Tim Briggs (D-PA149) said he could not vote for an increase in tuition at PASSHE universities until the legislature steps up its financial involvement.
“I hope and I encourage all the presidents to continue talking to their legislators, to make sure they know the consequences of lack of action this June,” Briggs said.
For the budget to be passed on time, it must be approved by June 30.