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Penn State raises tuition 2.5% for in-state students after three-year freeze

The decision to raise in-state tuition 2.5% passed, along with a $7.7 billion budget, which includes a $163 million deficit, related to COVID-19, that will be covered with reserves.

Penn State president Eric J. Barron.
Penn State president Eric J. Barron.Read moreMichael Wirtz/Staff file photo

Colleges are expecting a more normal semester this fall — and with that, tuition increases are coming, too.

After three consecutive years of a freeze, in-state undergraduate students attending Pennsylvania State University will pay higher tuition this year for the first time since 2017-18. Temple University also last week announced a tuition increase after a two-year freeze.

At Penn State, the decision to raise in-state tuition 2.5% passed Thursday by a vote of 26-5, along with the university’s $7.7 billion budget, which includes a $163 million deficit, related to COVID-19, that the university intends to cover with reserves.

» READ MORE: After a two-year freeze, Temple raises tuition 2.5%

“It’s unfortunately dangerous for us at this point to not [have] some modest increase in tuition after so many years that were flat,” president Eric J. Barron said at the first board of trustees meeting held in-person at University Park since the pandemic began.

Trustee Ted Brown, who voted against the proposal, said he’s worried students can’t afford to pay a couple of hundred dollars more, noting that a recent study found nearly a third faced food insecurity.

He suggested instead that Penn State grow enrollment at its Commonwealth campuses by 700 or so students, which would bring in more revenue.

Barron countered that would mean accepting students who may not be prepared for a Penn State education and saddling them with debt that may not lead to a degree. He noted that the university has increased its financial-aid budget by $10 million to help students in need.

At University Park, lower-division undergraduate students will pay $9,184 per semester in tuition and fees under the budget approved, an increase of $224, while those at the university’s Commonwealth campuses, where prices vary, will face tuition increases ranging from $162 to $184.

All undergraduate and graduate students from out of state will see a 2.75% increase in costs. For lower-division students at University Park, that means an increase of $481 per semester, to $17,973. Those at the other campuses will get increases that range from $294 to $336, the university said.

Also at the meeting, Barron laid out plans for the fall semester, which largely indicate a return to normal. But he said many of the COVID-19 mitigation efforts that were in place last year will remain for the fall. That includes a public dashboard — where case numbers are recorded — as well as reserving quarantine space and testing waste water to determine if the virus is present.

Ninety-five percent of classes will be held in-person at University Park and 88% at the Commonwealth campuses, Barron said.

He also discussed recent admission data, noting that 71.5% of applicants did not submit standardized test scores, more than university officials anticipated. Penn State, like many other schools, went test-optional for applicants as a result of the pandemic. Applications from first-year students were up 15%, while those from transfer students and international students were down, he said.

He also said the university experienced more retirements than usual during the pandemic. Gifts from donors continued to come in, even though in-person meetings weren’t occurring. That includes a $27.1 million gift from Ross and Carol Nese, whose name will be on the nursing school. Ross Nese is a founder and board member of Pittsburgh-based Grane Healthcare, which provides support to long-term care facilities in Pennsylvania.